Note: This article was originally published June 6, 2017. We are highlighting it because it illustrates a misperception that is sometimes forwarded by officials—that families need “approval” to homeschool.
With the school year winding down, many Pennsylvania school districts are sending out letters to homeschooling parents reminding them about the upcoming deadline for year-end evaluations. This year, several school districts also told parents that if they do not comply with specific school district requests, they will lose their “approval” to homeschool.
The problem is that many of these school district requests conflict with, misstate, or misinterpret Pennsylvania law. School officials don’t have the authority to approve homeschooling, so they really can’t withhold approval.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly recognized the right of parents to teach their children at home by enacting a statute exclusively governing home education programs (24 P.S. § 13-1327.1). So long as parents comply with these statutory provisions, their decision to homeschool is not subject to the approval of public school officials.
I recently helped clarify this for two different member families facing erroneous requests from school officials.
Lose the checklist
An eastern Pennsylvania school district notified one of our member families that they could only use an evaluator from a pre-approved list maintained by the school district.
This is not accurate. Parents are authorized by law to choose any evaluator who meets the qualifications in Pennsylvania’s homeschool statute, regardless of whether the name appears on a school district’s list.
There is certainly nothing wrong with a school district maintaining a list of evaluators for convenience, but it may not restrict the use of evaluators to those on the list.
A school district in south central Pennsylvania mailed out a form letter informing homeschooling parents that approval to continue homeschooling depended upon the district’s review of student portfolios. But in 2014, the legislature amended the homeschool statute to require that school districts rely on the qualified evaluator’s certification of progress rather than performing a separate review.
There is a specific procedure for school districts to verify compliance with the law if they believe a homeschooling program is not following the statutory requirements.
Withholding approval because parents don’t comply with a made-up policy, however, is simply not authorized.
While this may seem like semantics, it makes a significant difference as a matter of law because approval implies a discretionary function.
We correspond with dozens of Pennsylvania school districts each year on behalf of our member families. They are usually quick to acknowledge errors and update their form letters and policies to accurately reflect Pennsylvania law.