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Homeschooling in Puerto Rico—Frequently Asked Questions
Distributed by Home School Legal Defense Association
1. What is Homeschooling?
Many parents are choosing to teach their children at home in a non-classroom setting. Homeschooling is a fast-growing movement with around two million children being home educated nationwide. The number of families educating their children at home in Puerto Rico is not known, but is growing as well. There are many reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home. Many are concerned about their children receiving a religious education. Many parents are concerned about the safety of their children in public schools and the lack of values being taught there. Many others believe that their children learn better in an intimate setting in the family where the educational program can be directed to the child’s need, rather than the child being manipulated into the educational program. Some parents are educating their children at home to meet the specific needs of children that have learning disabilities. With the growth of homeschooling comes more scrutiny from elected officials and bureaucrats within the government. This document is intended to address questions by prospective and current homeschool families, government officials, and any other person having an interest in home education in Puerto Rico.
2. Is Homeschooling Legal in Puerto Rico?
Yes. Attendance in public schools in Puerto Rico is compulsory between 5 and 18 years of age. However, attendance at public school shall not be compulsory for those who are receiving education in schools established under the auspices of non-governmental entities. While non-governmental entity schools are not clearly defined or regulated by law, only a primary or secondary academic school which declares, promises, announces, or expresses the intention of granting certificates, diplomas, degrees or licenses is required to licensed by the General Council of Education (Consejo General de Educación). Most homeschoolers operate as non-governmental entity schools. These homeschools typically use transcripts to demonstrate completed work rather than diplomas.
The Departamento de La Familia (through ADSEF, Administración de Desarrollo Socio-Económico de La Familia), which administers the nutritional or financial assistance program for indigent families, recognizes homeschooling as a valid alternative of fulfilling the academic requirement for eligibility purposes.
3. Are There any Reported Court Cases in Puerto Rico Regarding Homeschooling?
No. Although there are no court cases, existing law clearly permits any family to operate a non-governmental entity school in their home. Although there is no specific law in Puerto Rico that recognizes homeschooling or establishes any criteria for setting up a homeschool, homeschoolers can clearly meet the non-governmental entity exemption from public school attendance for children. At least 10 states have a similar situation in that homeschoolers operate as private schools since there is no specific statute or law defining homeschooling in those states or establishing the requirements thereof.
4. Are There Teacher Qualification Requirements for Home Educating as Non-Governmental Entity Schools?
5. Are any Specific Standardized Tests or other Kinds of Tests Required of Home Educated Students Attending a Non-Governmental Entity School?
No. Puerto Rico has left it up to the parents offering home education to decide if their children are receiving an adequate education. This is consistent with the view that God has ordained the family through parents to be responsible for the upbringing and education of children, not the state. Therefore, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should view home education as a benefit to the territory. Parents choosing home education in Puerto Rico are saving the government money by not sending their children to public schools while continuing to pay taxes, thereby subsidizing public schools.
6. Shouldn’t Home Educating Teachers and Children be Regulated More?
No. National studies demonstrate how well homeschoolers do on standardized testing. Homeschoolers test 30 percentile points above the norm, on the average. Although there is no specific survey that has been done of Puerto Rico home educated students, there is no reason to believe that the test results in Puerto Rico would be any different than the national scores. The parents choosing home education in Puerto Rico are doing so because they believe it is in the best interest of their children and because they are confident that they can give their children a better education than they could receive in the public schools where they would be attending. This is a positive trend in Puerto Rico in light of the fact that on any given day, as many as 40% of the children that should be attending public schools, are not. Many colleges and universities admit homeschool graduates today, including the University of Puerto Rico, attesting to the adequacy of their preparation and the conscientiousness of their parents in providing their education.
7. Have There been Efforts to Regulate Homeschooling in Puerto Rico?
Yes. PS 793 was introduced in 2015 to regulate home education. The bill would have imposed over burdensome annual regulations on homeschoolers. The main problem with the legislation was the vagueness of the terms in Article 4 which stated that education must be “adequate” and “efficient.” P. del. S. 793 also would have given unbridled power to the Council of Education to determine what the terms meant and giving unbridled power to the Council of Education to make decisions regarding a child’s education if the Council did not believe the child was receiving a satisfactory education.
It was not apparent how the council would have made such a determination regarding a specific child, but the bill would have allowed the Council to enroll a child in school if the problem persisted. The bill also did not provide a process for parents to appeal a decision by the Council.
Ultimately the law would have undermined the fundamental right of parents to effectively direct the upbringing and education of their children.
Hundreds of homeschool families showed up at the Capitol in San Juan to peacefully, but forcefully, express their opposition to PS 793. They came with their children and visited every senator’s office asking each one to stop PS 793 because it was unreasonable, unnecessary, and unconstitutional intrusion into their freedom to homeschool. They presented 11,000 signatures on a petition to the author of the bill, Hon. Cirilo Tirado, to withdraw the bill. This caught him by surprise and he was quite irritated by it. Nineteen homeschool organizations, including HSLDA, voiced their formal opposition to the bill, asking that it be withdrawn.
Although the bill was amended in an attempt to mitigate the opposition to it, it would have still required parents to give their age, occupation and the highest grade level of education. This would have given the government private information about parents exercising their constitutional right to homeschool that it should never be entitled to. Additionally, the parents would have had to annually file a declaration of intent in front of a notary to homeschool providing the full names and ages of the children being homeschooled and the relationship to the person filing the declaration of intent. Finally they would have had to list all the subjects that were being taught.
8. Should Homeschoolers Agree to some Law that would Clarify Homeschooling in Puerto Rico?
No. The law is clear that home educators can qualify as non-governmental entity schools in Puerto Rico. Because homeschooling families are responsibly teaching their children at home and providing good citizens for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, there is no justification for regulating home education in the Commonwealth. The fact is that individuals do a better job when they realize that they have the full responsibility for the success of the project. Regulation will restrict the number of parents that will initially qualify to be able to teach their children at home and interfere with the genius of home education, which is the ability to take an educational program and shape it to the individual needs of the child. To the contrary, any regulation will normally require standardization of education, testing, and evaluation, which is not in the best interest of children.
9. Does HSLDA Assist with Verification of School Attendance for Purposes of Obtaining Government Benefits?
Yes. HSLDA will provide homeschool certification and fax to the caseworker. The following details are required for certification:
- Full name and social security number of recipient;
- Full name, grade level, and social security number of all homeschool students;
- Full name and address of case worker, and fax number if available.
Our certifications are backed up by the availability of our local attorney in Puerto Rico. For more than six years, HSLDA has been acting as a clearinghouse for the Departamento de La Familia (ADSEF) concerning homeschooling certification. Other government agencies and programs followed suit, such as Programa de Asistencia Médica (“tarjeta de salud”) and Plan 8 (housing incentive).
10. How does HSLDA Handle Non-English Speaking Members?
HSLDA has an interpreter on staff for any non-English speaking members. In addition, HSLDA uses Tele-interpreters, a service that connects with an interpreter to assist members. The service has been extremely fast and reliable. No one should feel as though language is a barrier in communicating with a representative at HSLDA. .
11. Where can I Find Additional Information?
The Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a website with access to substantial materials on homeschooling. In addition, Michael Smith, the president of HSLDA, is the attorney assigned to direct the defense of the freedom to homeschool in Puerto Rico. He and his assistant, Melissa Covey, are available to assist home educators in Puerto Rico. Additionally, HSLDA works in conjunction with Carlos Pérez-Sierra, an attorney in San Juan, to provide immediate legal response to member families of HSLDA. Membership information can be obtained online through the website or by contacting HSLDA at 540-338-5600.