Home School Court Report
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Vol. XXV
No. 3

In This Issue

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by Will Estrada
Byrd Scholarship Finally Fixed

Homeschoolers won a major victory against discrimination last year with the quiet passage of language opening up the Byrd Scholarship to homeschool graduates.

Toms family and Sen. Orrin Hatch
Courtesy of the family
Trained volunteer lobbyists in HSLDA’s Congressional Action Program, the Toms family encouraged Senator Orrin Hatch to vote to include homeschoolers as eligible for the Byrd scholarship.
OF UP TO $6,000

Language was included in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (H.R. 4137), signed by former president George W. Bush on August 14, 2008, that made clear homeschool graduates’ eligibility for the Byrd Scholarship.

Senator Robert Byrd (West Virginia), the longest-serving U.S. senator ever, introduced federal legislation in 1985 to create this scholarship. The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program is the only national merit-based scholarship program funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The scholarship provides stipends of up to $6,000 over four years to high school graduates who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and who have been accepted for enrollment at a college or university.

When the Byrd Scholarship was created, an “eligible student” for the scholarship was defined as “a graduate of a public or private secondary school.” Homeschool graduates in states that recognized homeschoolers as private schools were able to benefit from the scholarship, but homeschool graduates in states with a homeschool statute were inadvertently excluded.

Over the years, Home School Legal Defense Association had tried to insert language that would correct this problem without leaving an opening for the federal government to define or regulate homeschooling, but the bills never made it through Congress. The political shift that came with the 2006 midterm elections gave us an opportunity to work with new leaders on the House and Senate education committees, and with bipartisan support, we were able to include clarifying language in last year’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Lobbying by families in HSLDA’s Congressional Action Program (CAP) was instrumental in achieving this.

HSLDA will closely monitor the Department of Education’s implementation of the new language to ensure that homeschool graduates are not forced to submit unnecessary documentation. Homeschool graduates enrolling in a college or university should talk with the financial aid officer to determine if they are eligible for the Byrd Scholarship. Please contact HSLDA’s federal relations department at 540-338-5600 if you run into any problems.