Labor Rule Discriminates Against Homeschool Teens
by Maggie McKneely • March 22, 2019
This week, 20 members of Congress, led by Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL), sent a letter to federal Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta asking him to fix an unnecessary rule.
In an age when more and more families are opting out of the traditional public school model, it’s time for one particular government regulation to reflect the diversity of America’s education options.
The freedom to create a schedule best suited to a student’s educational needs is one of the many benefits of homeschooling. But for the past nine years, that freedom has been unfairly limited by a Department of Labor regulation—which has prevented some teens from getting jobs or paid internships.
Under federal labor laws, students ages 14 and 15 are not allowed to work a job during “school hours.” Prior to 2010, it was left up to local school districts and states to define what exactly “school hours” are. But because there are a number of other regulations that hinge on what “school hours” are, the federal government decided to step in and clarify the issue. Unfortunately, the definition they implemented unfairly discriminates against non-public school students.
The new rule defined “school hours” as “the hours that the local public school district where the minor resides while employed is in session during the regularly scheduled school year.” This ignores the reality that many homeschools and private schools have different schedules than the public schools.
Many families choose a non-public education option precisely because it allows them the freedom to not follow the public school session. For many students, the most effective school schedule involves devoting mornings to their schoolwork and curriculum, and afternoons to gaining rewarding experience from a job or internship. But the Department of Labor’s rule forces all families, regardless of what form of education they’ve chosen, to conform to the public school schedule.
Instead of the current regulation, we believe that “school hours” should be construed flexibly to mean the hours during which any given student—whether in public, private, or homeschool—is required to attend classes. Families choose not to send their children to public school for a variety of reasons, but none of those reasons justify discrimination by the federal government.
Asking for Help
In the past nine years, we have heard from numerous 14- and 15-year-old homeschool students who have been denied jobs or had their schoolwork negatively impacted as a result of the rule. HSLDA has been fighting for a fix ever since the rule’s implementation, but convincing the government to reduce regulations is more difficult than getting regulations put in.
Last year, HSLDA sent a letter to the Department of Labor, asking them to address the issue. This year, we collaborated with Congress to continue pressing the issue with Secretary Acosta. We are grateful to have the support of Rep. Byrne, a subcommittee leader for the House Education and Labor Committee, and 19 of his colleagues, in the fight against unnecessary and harmful government oversight. Together, we will continue fighting to protect and preserve educational freedom.
If one of the signers of the letter is your congressman, please take a moment to call or email him and thank him for his support! You can find their contact information here.
- Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-1)
- Rep. Rick Allen (GA-12)
- Rep. Jim Banks (IN-3)
- Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-5)
- Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ-8)
- Rep. Ben Cline (VA-6)
- Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-3)
- Rep. William Timmons (SC-4)
- Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1)
- Rep. Glenn Grothman (WI-6)
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-1)
- Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD7—at large)
- Rep. Steve King (IA-4)
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-1)
- Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11)
- Rep. Paul Mitchell (MI-10)
- Rep. Alexander Mooney (WV-2)
- Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-11)
- Rep. Ross Spano (FL-15)
- Rep. Steve Watkins (KS-2)
Education isn’t one-size fits all, despite what some bureaucrats in D.C. think.