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Big Co-op Growing Pains
|Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff helps members and advocates for homeschool freedom in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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When God blesses a co-op with growth, its leaders may encounter issues that were never even on their radar when the burgeoning group was meeting in someone’s basement.
For example, a growing co-op may need help formulating contracts with teachers or a lease for the premises they use. They may need to consider incorporating. They need risk management-type help in picking which insurance policies to buy and how to operate to reduce the likelihood of people getting hurt. They may need sound guidance on how to handle their own tax liability (even if they are a non-profit entity), plus payroll tax, unemployment tax, withholding, employment laws, and independent contractor issues. They may need skilled advice on dealing with zoning, health and fire code issues. They may need help in figuring out if they are subject to state licensure requirements such as day care licensure—especially if they are providing care for children under school age. There may even be city or county ordinances they must follow.
These are the some of the same issues that small businesses face every day!
The fact that the co-op was established just to bless homeschool families doesn’t change the way many laws will apply. So as a co-op is supported by more and more members of the community, the time comes when its leaders need to add three key people to their team: a tax advisor, a risk manager (for insurance and operational safety issues), and a lawyer skilled in small business issues.
Here’s HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff’s rule of thumb: once a co-op has 50 children under its wing, the organizers should start looking for those three key people. Once 75 children are involved, those three should be identified and placed firmly on the team. It is not necessary to have them on the co-op’s board. They should, however, be briefed thoroughly on what the co-op is doing not less than once a year.
Woodruff also recommend that co-ops put a chaplain on their board once they increase to 50 kids. Home school co-ops sometimes get so focused on just running the program that they can overlook core spiritual issues. A chaplain can help make sure the focus stays where it should be: glorifying God in all they do.
Recognizing the important role co-ops and other types of support groups play, HSLDA has written several articles that offer help on a variety of issues, including obtaining group insurance. They can be found here:
We are eager to talk to groups and co-ops and help them to the maximum extent of our experience! But since we are neither risk managers, tax advisors nor business attorneys, in many cases we are going to recommend that the local leaders consult with their three key people so the group can continue blessing the homeschool community without interruption for many years to come.
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