Legislative Update!

We have an exciting legislative update!

Senator Monica Martinez (SD-4 Long Island) has introduced S7706 for obtaining a “letter of substantial equivalence.” This letter is verification that a student has completed his or her homeschool program in compliance with New York law. The phrase “substantial equivalence” is used in New York law, and it describes what you have done when you follow the homeschool regulations.

We are very grateful for the efforts Senator Martinez and her legislative aides have made, the time they have taken to hear from homeschoolers about why this is so important, and their desire to fix a situation that has unfairly disadvantaged homeschool graduates in our state.

There are two more important facts about this bill. Senator Martinez submitted it to the Rules Committee, which is an indication that she is eager to see it passed sooner rather than later. Bills in the Rules Committee can be voted on even when the legislature is not in session! We don’t have to wait until January to work on moving the bill.

Secondly, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (AD113), who was the original sponsor of the first substantial equivalence bill written (A2957), has modified her bill so that both bills are now “same as.” This is an important step in order to get both of these bills moving.

So, what is needed now? We need more legislators to sign on to these bills. There have been many senators over the last couple of years who have asked us to alert them when we have a bill for them to sign on! Now is the time to hold them to their word.

We are asking every homeschooler in every legislative district to contact your representatives! You only have to contact two – your senator and your assemblyperson. If you want to do more than that, then you can reach out to the respective committee members for the bills (https://www.nysenate.gov/senators-committees) (https://nyassembly.gov/comm/?id=12).

Phone calls to a representative’s home office or Albany office are the best way to convey your opinion, but you can send an email, as well.

You might use the following wording as an example. If possible, include a personal story about how this affects your family.

‘I am a constituent asking for your support of A2957/S7706, which has to do with verification for high school students who have completed their homeschool program in compliance with New York law. This verification is often called a “letter of substantial equivalence,” as the homeschool student must comply with Section 100.10 of the Commissioner’s Regulations to demonstrate their receipt of a substantially equivalent education at home.

In NY, a parent-issued diploma alone is not sufficient proof of completion of high school. In 2005, the NYSED advised that a homeschool high school graduate should obtain a letter of substantial equivalence from the local school district superintendent, which would attest that the family followed the homeschooling regulations as put forth in Section 100.10. Under those regulations, a student who has completed all of the requirements for grades 9-12 is to be determined to have completed a substantially equivalent education by the local school superintendent. However, the SED does not require superintendents to provide verification of this fact once the homeschool student has completed these requirements.

While many school districts already routinely provide the “letter of substantial equivalence,” there are a troubling number of districts who refuse to do so. This puts homeschool graduates at a disadvantage when seeking admission to in-state colleges and vocational programs. Many homeschool students are left with few choices. They may be forced to obtain a GED, which makes them seem as if they dropped out of high school. Or, they can be shunted into the 24 college credit option, which will eventually count toward demonstrating substantial equivalence. Some students are attempting to complete the 24 credits while they are still in high school, hoping to avoid needing to ask for a letter. This can cost $70 or more per credit, which puts lower income students at a disadvantage if colleges begin to expect this.

Many NY homeschool graduates simply opt to attend college out of state, as the majority of colleges and universities across the country happily accept homeschool diplomas. Even more frustrating, because New York already has more homeschool requirements than any other state, homeschool students from New York will have less issues getting into an out-of-state college than a New York college.

Many homeschool graduates would prefer to remain in-state and take advantage of the lower tuition available to state residents. A letter of substantial equivalence makes this possible.

A homeschool graduate will have submitted at least 28 separate documents over the course of grades 9-12 to their local school district superintendent, including the results of a standardized test for every year of high school. This is more than sufficient for a school official to verify substantial equivalence in accordance with New York law. In my opinion, homeschool students are being unfairly denied the opportunity to further their education because their local school district refuses to provide simple verification of their compliance with New York law. These bills will make it mandatory for a school district to supply this verification letter when the family has complied with the requirements of the New York regulations.

We look forward to seeing your name as a sponsor on one of these bills.’

Several legislators have asked for specific examples of our students who have struggled to obtain the Letter. If that applies to you, would you please send your story to legislative@nysleah.org?

Thank you for taking the time to do this! If you have any additional questions or feedback, please send them to legislative@nysleah.org

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