Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer rejected a bill that would have empowered homeschool parents to issue student work permits—and simplify the process.

Work is a positive activity for homeschoolers (and everyone, of course!), but on September 16 the Michigan governor vetoed a bill that would have introduced a commonsense reform to make it easier for students to get jobs.

Today, when homeschooling students want to work, their parents must trudge down to the local school office, lugging paperwork and taking time from their busy schedules as well as interrupting public school officials to get a work permit.

Because Michigan law requires an issuing official to essentially certify that a student is academically progressing, some school officials refuse to issue work permits because they have no idea how the homeschooled students are doing.  This bureaucratic obstacle arises because Michigan does not create any formal connections between homeschooling families and public school officials.

Aiming to Reduce Red Tape

House Bill 4063 would have made life easier for homeschooling parents and public school officials.

But Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the legislation that would have allowed homeschool parents to issue work permits. Whitmer said she was rejecting the legislation because of her concerns about “severe negative consequences caused by child labor exploitation, such as denial of educational opportunities and increased physical and mental health risks.” And that “[i]n order to keep our kids safe, it is important that an independent school official evaluate work permit applications prepared by a family.”

However, the governor’s message reveals a lack of understanding about the intent and operation of the bill, as well as how labor laws in Michigan work today. The bill would not have impeded any child labor law enforcement in any way. And because of the way the law works now, the bill would have acknowledged what Michigan law already recognizes—that homeschool parents are best suited to assess their children’s academic progress. 

What the Law Does

The other purpose of the work permit laws in Michigan is to verify a student’s age for the purpose of labor law enforcement related to hours worked and the kind of employment that young people are legally permitted to participate in. Michigan, like most states, regulates the number of hours a child may work depending on their age and prohibits minors from working in certain industries that are deemed to be dangerous.

In most cases, for example, Michigan students may not be employed until they reach age 16. And they may not work from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. if attending school.

I think most homeschooling parents know how old their students are, so instead of requiring parents to produce paperwork and interrupt public school officials, it makes sense to let them issue the work permit. 

West Virginia passed similar legislation in 2021, and other states are considering the same.  HSLDA and our friends at MiCHN will be working to advance new versions of this legislation in the future, and we hope that the governor, her advisors, and others will reevalaute their misguided opposition to this commonsense legislation.