by Tom Lewis, AFHE Legislative Liaison
The 2017 U.S. economy is shaping up for a banner year. Personal disposable income and household spending remained solid through 2016, buoyed by post-election consumer confidence which reached a nine-year high in November. In addition, the GDP grew by 3.2% in the third quarter and employers are hiring 180,000 jobs a month, on average. This is all great news!
Unfortunately, some Arizona homeschool high school graduates have been denied work, demoted, or asked to resign due to the administrative policy interpretations of state agencies concerning their high school graduation credentials.
Remember back in 2014 prior to AFHE’s agreement with the Arizona Board of Regents and the three state universities? A number of academically qualified homeschooled high school graduates were denied scholarships. Other homeschool graduates were consistently underfunded in scholarship awards even when they had notably higher GPA, SAT, and ACT test scores and better scholarship retention rates than public, private, and charter school students. All of this originated because of bias towards the graduation credentials of homeschooled students. Ultimately, AFHE was successful in mediations that resulted in restored scholarships and financial reparations to homeschool graduates who were affected.
Then, in April 2016, AFHE successfully negotiated with the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST). Prior to our agreement with AZPOST, homeschooled graduates could not meet their minimum education requirements because of bias against the homeschool graduation credentials. AZPOST’s policy prevented homeschool graduates from access to some 163 Arizona agencies providing jobs as peace and correctional officers. In the end, they agreed to accept the parent-issued homeschool diploma when accompanied by the high school course transcript. This cooperative win-win has propelled us all forward.
No sooner had we put this issue “in the old deep freeze,” as Al McCoy, announcer of the Phoenix Suns, used to say, HSLDA requested AFHE’s involvement with another diploma discrimination case. This occasion involved another state agency, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). This was beginning to have the look and feel of a real-life game of Whack-A-Mole, except with Arizona government agencies.
It all started when employers in Tucson—a church daycare facility and a public school after-school program—were instructed to have their homeschooled employees take a GED or terminate employment. God bless these freedom-loving homeschool graduates who chose to stand rather capitulate to such insulting demands. Their brave stance resulted in one individual losing her job and the other taking a demotion. Those aggressive audits were not isolated to Tucson, but also found their way into Tempe-based daycare facilities.
This all happened during annual job site audits conducted by the ADHS. Along with examining such things as room configuration, cleanliness, and teacher-child ratios, they inspected education credentials such as high school diplomas. You guessed it, only public and private school credentials and GEDs were acceptable.
After a constructive meeting and several follow-up telephone conversations and emails with agency representatives, we arrived at a cooperative good-faith solution with ADHS. The new Substantive Policy Statement (SPS) was sent to the Secretary of State in late December and became effective January 1, 2017. As with AZPOST, ADHS agreed to accept the homeschool diploma when accompanied by the student’s high school transcript.
Another bright spot resulting from these negotiations was that one graduate got her job back and another will soon be fully restored in her position. This is fantastic news!
We are hopeful that the ADHS SPS agreement to accept homeschool graduation credentials will be pushed out to all state agencies. After all, accepting the graduation credentials provided by dedicated parents who have followed Arizona’s educational law should be standard practice statewide, especially considering that homeschooled students consistently outperform public school students on standardized achievement tests and college entrance exams. In addition to the growing list of Arizona state agencies recognizing homeschool graduation credentials, there are a number of are federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Defense, to mention just a few.
Our work on this issue continues. We are working with our friends in the Governor’s office and the Arizona Legislature to determine the best way to ensure successful outcomes across all state agencies in the future so that we can stop fighting the same battle over and over again.
Homeschooling is not a passing fancy. It is here to stay! It is a bulwark for those freedom-loving parents who want to impart to their posterity the love of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is worth our fight!
UPDATE FEBRUARY 6, 2017: The Tucson graduate who lost her job is now fully restored. We are grateful and celebrate with her over this victory!
UPDATE APRIL 17, 2017: HB2389 passed in the House by a vote of 41-17 and is on to the Governor’s desk for signing. If signed by Governor Doug Ducey, HB2389 will go into effect 90 days after the close of this legislative session. Many thanks to the bill’s sponsor Representative Rusty Bowers, and also to the Center for Arizona Policy for lending watchful eyes.
AFHE is at work serving the Arizona homeschool community all year long. We invite you to support the work of AFHE by becoming a member, subscribing to our enewsletter, attending our events, and making a tax-deductible donation. Thank you for your support! Together we are making a difference!