Originally created 05/08/02

Sponsors want to rework mail-diploma bill



A piece of legislation meant to block mail-order high school diplomas from being used to gain employment or admission to college will be discussed again today in the Senate.

But the House bill's sponsors say it will die or be amended to exclude home-school students when it goes before a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee in Columbia.

"We want to make sure people that get diplomas in South Carolina legitimately earned them, so we put this bill in to try and eliminate this problem of fraudulent high school diplomas," said Rep. Jim Klauber, R-Greenwood.

Mr. Klauber, a sponsor of the bill and candidate for Congress, said people can pay companies to receive a test in the mail. When they mail it back, the company sends them a diploma.

"However, when we drafted the bill, we drafted it very broadly, and we did not anticipate that it would affect home-schoolers at all. I support home schooling," Mr. Klauber said.

Ken Wingate, a candidate for governor and attorney for South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools, will testify against the bill. He said diploma mills could be shut down using South Carolina's consumer-protection law. Passing broad legislation would be overkill, he said.

"I say this is like trying to use a bazooka to kill a gnat," Mr. Wingate said.

Don Merchant, an Aiken home-schooling parent, also has concerns about the legislation.

"We're just afraid this bill is going to put us under control of individuals without the same passion" for home-schooling, Mr. Merchant said.

Parents who want their home-schooled students to obtain recognized diplomas or transcripts have three options. They can go through the school district, the state Association of Independent Home Schools, or individual associations with at least 50 members.

The bill, if passed as-is, would require that all diplomas, including home-school diplomas, be approved by the State Department of Education or the school board.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.

A Senate education subcommittee will discuss House Bill 3364 at 9 a.m. today in Room 407 of the Gressette Building on Statehouse grounds.