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What’s Wrong with the Department of Education Forms?

by Scott Woodruff • June 25, 2019

I have urged Maine homeschool families to not use forms prepared by the Department of Education here and here.

As my earlier messages explain, these forms fail to conform to state law and ask for information to which the department is not entitled. Using them could lead to adverse circumstances.

The best way to protect freedom is to use it. Homeschool families who back away from exercising the freedoms that are lawfully theirs leave those freedoms vulnerable to erosion. Use it or lose it. That’s the big picture.

Here’s a point-by-point explanation of where the department’s forms do not respect your freedom.

  • Form or no form?
    Maine law does not require that homeschool families use any form at all. The department strays from the law by insisting that families use a form.
  • Need to identify “homeschool year” or “school year?”
    Maine law does not require families to stipulate either a “homeschool year” or “school year.” The department deviates from the law by insisting that families commit themselves to a school year.
  • Acknowledgement won’t be sent?
    When a family starts to homeschool a child, they file what Maine law refers to as a “written notice of intent.” The idea of a “notice” is very simple: It’s a unilateral announcement. It’s effective even if no one responds to it in any way. Think about legal notices in a newspaper: they are effective even if no one reads them! But the department form warns: “If no email is provided, acknowledgment of submission will not be sent.” Here’s the problem with that: you don’t need the department to “acknowledge” your notice! Your notice is effective even if no official ever acknowledges it. The department is threatening to withhold something no one needs . . . but a person unfamiliar with the law might be frightened into surrendering their email address. Bluffing and bullying is not consistent with Maine law.
  • Need to list the name of your school district?
    The department’s form says families must list the name of their school district. Maine law does not require this.
  • Month and date of birth?
    The department form says families must list each child’s month of birth. This is not required under Maine law, however. The department’s form lists date of birth as optional, which is appropriate, but month of birth should have been listed as optional as well.
  • First or subsequent year of homeschool?
    Maine law makes a very clear, simple distinction between the long notice families must file when starting to homeschool a child, and the much shorter “statement” they must file each subsequent year to confirm that the child’s homeschool program is continuing. The department’s form demolishes this distinction by making families file the same long form every year.
  • Last year of homeschool?
    Maine law does not require families to tell any official when they are starting their last year of homeschooling. But the department’s form makes this mandatory.
  • Promise you will obey the law?
    The department’s form requires families to promise (in effect) that they will obey the homeschool laws. But no law requires this. What are we to make of this? The department goes outside the boundaries of the law in order to demand that others obey the law!
  • Full-time homeschool?
    While the department’s paper form indicates that families can choose to state whether the child is homeschooled full time, the department’s online process will not allow a family to submit the notice unless they divulge that information.
  • Is your child “registered”?
    The department’s online process (but not the paper form) indicates that you are “registering” a child and a homeschool program. However, Maine law does not say families must “register” their child or their homeschool program. There is a difference. For example, a “registration” can be rejected. A “notice” cannot. By calling it a “registration,” the department is arrogating to itself powers it does not lawfully possess.

For many years, Maine law gave the department power to create homeschool regulations. Those were difficult years. The department sometimes adopted regulations despite the overwhelming opposition of the homeschool community. Thankfully, the legislature abolished the department’s power to make homeschool regulations.

The leadership and staff of the department are not elected by the citizens. In order to maintain our freedom, we must insist that we be governed by our elected representatives—not by a department policy or regulation.

To have an orderly society, citizens must obey the law. But so must government officials. They hold us accountable. Now we must hold them accountable.

Scott Woodruff

Senior Counsel

Scott is a seasoned attorney and homeschool advocate with decades of involvement in homeschool legal issues and cases. Read more.

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