Court Report

2023 Legislative Round-up: Six Wins for Homeschooling

HSLDA attorneys worked with state organizations to monitor more than 130,000 bills brought up for consideration in the 2023 legislative season. Some of those bills resulted in major wins, and others delivered setbacks.

Regardless of how it’s packaged, HSLDA is paying attention to any potential law that affects a family’s educational choices, and we take action when necessary.

Our work here is vital, and we strive to keep you informed. Even laws that don’t mention homeschooling can directly affect homeschooling families. Daytime curfews, jury duty requirements, or even zoning regulations can have a big impact. And others could directly limit or expand your homeschooling freedoms—adding to the burden of paperwork or restricting your choice of curriculum, for example.

Based on our work with state organizations to monitor legislation, here are the biggest changes to homeschool law we saw in 2023.

1. Homeschooling families put a stop to onerous testing rules.

Families packed the MINNESOTA Statehouse twice in February to protest a bill that would have empowered public school superintendents to create and enforce new testing protocols, restricting their ability to homeschool.

“This would have made Minnesota homeschool testing law the most restrictive in the nation,” said HSLDA Staff Attorney Amy Buchmeyer.

The families were alerted to the proposed bill by the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. Julie Johnson, the group’s legislative affairs director, identified the testing language while combing through 6,670 bills introduced in the legislative session. The relevant language amounted to eight lines of text buried in a 110-page document.

Remarkably, legislators responded to the input of those families by striking the testing provisions from the bill. Parents will not be required to submit standardized test results to local public school superintendents and are free to customize their children’s education according to their needs.

2. Streamlined regulations and enacted protections for homeschooling families.

Advocates and legislators took advantage of an education policy overhaul in OHIO to fix a burdensome notification process and enact new protections for homeschooling families.

The new law drastically reduces the amount of paperwork Ohio families must file with local officials and spells out homeschool protections in the law for the first time. Homeschooling families simply need to submit a notice of intent and give the superintendent 14 days to acknowledge receipt of the notice. Letters of excuse, required subjects, teaching requirements, mandatory hours, and mandated annual testing are all things of the past.

Melanie Elsey, legislative liaison for Christian Home Educators of Ohio, worked closely with Buchmeyer to spot the proposed changes and take advantage of the opportunity to push for improvements to the law. State Rep. Sarah Fowler-Arthur, a homeschool graduate herself, was a key figure in shepherding those positive changes through the legislature.

“We recognized there was a potential for positive steps, as well as the opportunity to make Ohio similar to other states in terms of homeschool protection,” Fowler-Arthur said. “This is really going to support parents as they direct the education of their children.”

3. Reversed longstanding restrictions on homeschooling.

After a spike in homeschooling in recent years, officials in VERMONT were overwhelmed with the amount of mandatory paperwork rolling in, so they decided to reduce it by reversing restrictions on homeschooling. 

Parents no longer need to submit end-of-year assessments or a minimum course of study, and they can choose how to evaluate their child’s yearly progress. The change puts an end to the legal limbo that homeschooling families found themselves in each year while waiting for officials to approve their paperwork.

“The creative nature of homeschooling children will be opened up by this,” said Retta Dunlap, a homeschool veteran who worked closely with Vermont legislators on the law change.

4. Expanded access to public school programs for homeschooling families.

PENNSYLVANIA law now recognizes homeschooling families as having the right to participate in an expanded number of public school programs, including band, orchestra, academic courses, and career and technical education programs. HSLDA attorneys have had to take action to remind several school districts of this, but have succeeded in encouraging them to expand their policies in accordance with the new law.

5. Secured equal access to public school sports for homeschooling families.

As of March, homeschool students in ARKANSAS have a legal right to access public school sports and other activities. School districts, including charter schools, must enact policies that open enrollment to homeschoolers. KANSAS and MONTANA also moved to secure access to extracurricular activities and classes for homeschooling students. These expansions give families more flexibility in choosing resources and activities to add to their homeschool.

6. Expanded the definition of homeschooling.

WYOMING passed a bill that removed longstanding discriminatory language from the law, which previously made it harder for homeschool families to participate in co-ops and other homeschool groups. Multi-family educational activities are now included in the definition of homeschooling, which means Wyoming homeschoolers now have the flexibility to use learning pods, co-ops, and other programs according to the needs of their child.

An ongoing journey

Every one of these laws will advance homeschool freedom, secure the rights of parents, and expand opportunities for their children. And we celebrate these wins.

But some of the laws passed this year resulted in setbacks for homeschooling families, and we’re keeping tabs on those as well. For example, the starting age of compulsory school attendance in NEVADA was reduced from 7 to 6.

Another issue on our radar is Education Savings Accounts. HSLDA worked with state and local homeschool leaders in several states to ensure that homeschooling remains free from additional government entanglements. You can read more about what happened with ESAs in 2023, and why HSLDA opposes them, here in this issue of the Court Report.

As homeschooling continues to garner more support and more freedom, we will continue to communicate with lawmakers on behalf of homeschooling families.

Alessandra writes content for HSLDA's website. She's a journalist in training at Patrick Henry College and is passionate about telling true, compelling stories.