Originally created 04/13/02

HOPE changes wait for Barnes



A bill that will make home schoolers eligible for HOPE scholarships when they enter college instead of retroactively is waiting for Gov. Roy Barnes' signature.

Some home schoolers soon may be eligible for the HOPE scholarship and other grants under legislation approved this week by the Georgia Senate.

Now awaiting Gov. Roy Barnes' signature, House Bill 961 adds home schools accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Independent Study to the list of those eligible for HOPE scholarships and grants. The bill passed the House in March.

Home-schoolers are currently eligible for the HOPE scholarship, but on a retroactive basis. Students have to attend college for one year and meet all the criteria for the HOPE before they can apply, then they are reimbursed for the previous year.

"We're delighted with the bill and of course, we were behind it," said Dan Funsch, the high school principal at Alleluia Community School, which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Independent Study.

The legislation will afford students at the south Augusta Christian school the same opportunity enjoyed by the majority of Georgia's high school seniors - to have their tuition paid for if they make the grades.

"It makes a big difference if you have to fund that first year yourself," Mr. Funsch. "This really is a benefit."

State Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling, said he supported the legislation because it might encourage more home-schoolers to attend postsecondary schools in state. But it also has the potential to improve the quality of home school education by encouraging more to join the accrediting agency.

"It brings legitimacy to their programs and allows them to be on the same level as public and private schools," Mr. Brush said. "This moves it up and allows them to get the money up front.

Kay Webster, who has home-schooled her four children, says the legislation's impact will be minimal. She now has a son at Augusta State University who receives HOPE funds and a daughter who graduates this year and plans to attend Augusta State and be reimbursed with HOPE money. There would have to be stronger reasons to join the accrediting agency, she said.

"I would have to see what they require, how much paperwork and if they require a particular curriculum. That would be something I would research before I would apply to an accrediting agency. As it stands now, it's not very difficult for a home schooler to apply to Georgia colleges and universities," she said.

Reach Ashlee Griggs and Melissa Hall at (706) 724-0851 or newsroom@augustachronicle.com.