A common question we hear from Alabama homeschoolers is “do I need a cover school?”
If “cover school” is used to refer to enrollment in a church school, the simple answer is “no.” But this does not mean no reporting requirements apply. All parents must comply with the state reporting requirements for the homeschooling option they choose. There are two choices for parents who are not certified teachers:
- enroll in a church school, or
- report instruction in a home-based private school.
You can view updated step-by-step guidance on the reporting requirements for each option here.
To clarify, there is no separate homeschooling option where parents do not have to report enrollment information to their local school district. Alabama statutes specifically apply enrollment reporting requirements to homeschooling entities (Code of Ala. § 16-1-11.3).
A Brief History
Parents have been legally homeschooling their children in Alabama through enrollment in church schools since 1982. Prior to 2014, this was the only homeschooling option for parents who were not certified teachers. Church schools became known colloquially as “cover schools” because of the legal covering they provided to homeschools, though that terminology is not found in Alabama law.
In 2014, the Alabama Legislature modified the definition of a private school to include “home programs.” It also clarified that parents have the right to select the type of school for their children’s education, whether “religious or nonreligious.” Thus, parents can now legally homeschool their children without enrolling in a church school by providing instruction in a home-based private school.
While the Alabama State Department of Education accurately explains that it does not license or regulate nonpublic schools (including home programs), reporting student enrollment may be enforced by local school officials in accordance with Alabama law.
Additionally, failure to follow the enrollment reporting requirements can lead to roadblocks down the road when your student considers future opportunities, such as employment, college admission, military enlistment, or participation in various extracurricular activities.
If you have questions about homeschooling in Alabama, please give us a call. We’re here to help make your homeschool journey a success!