- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

From combined dispatches

RICHMOND — The House yesterday passed legislation relaxing the academic qualifications required of parents who teach their children at home.

Delegate Rob B. Bell III’s bill would require parents to have only a high school diploma to home-school their children.

Virginia law currently requires home-schooling teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, parents can get around that requirement by enrolling their children in a state-approved correspondence course or getting the local school superintendent to certify that their curriculum meets or exceeds the public school Standards of Learning.

Mr. Bell, Albemarle County Republican, said 38 other states already allow parents with high school diplomas to teach their children at home.

“They may not be as educated as some members of this body and they may not be as educated as the lawyer-lobbyists who visit our offices, but they want to dedicate themselves to educating their children,” Mr. Bell said.

Delegate James H. Dillard II, Fairfax County Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee, urged his colleagues to reject the bill.

“We’re lowering the standards for 22,000 students in the commonwealth,” Mr. Dillard said. “We’re removing the safety net for these children.”

He said studies have shown that children taught by parents with only a high school education score 20 percent lower on standardized tests than other home-schooled students.

The House voted 60-40 to pass the bill and send it to the state Senate.

A bill yesterday was introduced in the House that would give the flag of South Vietnam symbolic recognition when flown at public events in the state.

A similar measure died last year under pressure from the State Department.

Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax County Democrat, said yesterday that the bill would allow Vietnamese-Americans, most of whom fled to the United States from South Vietnam, to fly the flag of their former country at businesses, schools or other public venues.

“It’s very important to the Vietnamese-American community,” Mr. Hull said. “They feel that the current flag of Vietnam doesn’t reflect their heritage and views.”

Officials at the State Department said the bill could have “potential negative consequences” on relations with communist Vietnam.

“Although we understand the respect many Vietnamese-Americans and U.S. veterans have for the former Republic of Vietnam, and recognize the legitimate right to freedom of expression for local groups wishing to fly the South Vietnamese flag, the U.S. does not recognize that flag as the national emblem of Vietnam,” said Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the State Department.

Mr. Hull introduced legislation last year seeking to officially recognize the former flag of South Vietnam, but it died in the Senate after passing the House 68-27. Mr. Hull said several legislators “got a lot of heat from the State Department” and dropped their support.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also became involved, promising the Vietnamese government that the measure would be abandoned, according to Vietnamese officials.

This year’s bill stops short of officially recognizing the flag. Louisiana officially recognized the South Vietnamese flag in July, making it the only state where the former Vietnamese flag is required to be flown at state-sponsored public functions or at public institutions.

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