Schools’ One-Size-Fits-All Policy Fits None
by Tj Schmidt • June 6, 2019
“We must hear a response from you!” “You must fill out the following form.”
Phrases such as these can be quite intimidating to homeschool parents who see them printed beneath their local school district’s official letterhead.
These imperatives are part of a one-size-fits-all attempt to collect information required by various state and federal education mandates. But by failing to differentiate between homeschools and brick-and-mortar private schools, the mass-mailed inquiries have instead created a good deal of alarm and confusion.
We know because in the past few months we’ve heard from several member families in Kentucky asking us how to reply. Our answer is this: You don’t have to do anything.
Have You Anything to Declare?
The form responsible for creating all this confusion is called the Declaration of Participation.
The Kentucky Department of Education devised the form, and public school districts are required to send it out every year in order to determine whether any local private schools wish to participate in certain public school programs.
These include the Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund; the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant; and IDEA-B: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Since homeschools in Kentucky are technically private schools, they may be eligible to participate in the IDEA-B program, which provides funds to identify, locate, and evaluate children with potential disabilities.
This annual mailing is Kentucky’s way of complying with a federal government mandate that states have policies and procedures to “identify, locate, and evaluate children” with potential disabilities.
No Response Needed
Homeschooling parents are under no obligation to participate in the programs offered under the Declaration of Participation form. Parents are not even legally required let the school district know that they do not want to participate. However, if a parent chooses, he or she can simply decline to participate in the programs and send the Declaration of Participation form back.
School districts in Kentucky often demand a response as a way of protecting themselves since they are required to report back to the Department of Education.
Some districts go so far as to send these forms via certified mail/return receipt or with a pre-paid envelope. This can add an extra level of pressure for parents to return the form. But, never fear, it is not targeted at you; it is rather because you are not required to formally decline services that some districts go to extra lengths to entice you to reply.
Both Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK) and HSLDA have complained about this form to the Kentucky Department of Education. Besides the fact that many parents are unnecessarily made to feel as if they must complete and return the form, it is confusing.
The form asks whether the school is in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and whether the school is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with the IRS. The form then states that “home schools, by their nature are considered non-profit.”
Generally speaking, individual homeschool programs do not need to file paperwork with the secretary of state to incorporate or register with the IRS to receive 501(c)(3) status. In fact, most homeschool programs would not want to do either, and certainly not without checking with a local CPA.
We have asked the Kentucky Department of Education on several occasions to change the form, but it has so far refused to do so.
But homeschoolers can rest easy knowing that they can answer “no” to the Declaration of Participation form or choose to completely ignore the form altogether.