The Portuguese homeschooling movement intends to challenge the socialist government’s new decree in the country’s constitutional court as violating their basic rights under the national constitution.

The decree, issued Tuesday, February 26, assigns total authority to the central government to disapprove a “request” to homeschool and requires parents to have a university degree before they even apply.

Families were given little say in the new regulations issued by the Education Ministry.

Standing in Support

Home School Legal Defense Association condemns the new decree as violating the fundamental rights of parents and children. We plan to support the challenge.

The case will be filed by one of Portugal’s leading homeschool organizations, Movimento Educacao Livre (MEL).

Sylvia Copio, President of MEL, told me that there was no way that they could work with the current government—whose leaders evinced significant hostility toward the idea of home education. She added that families are now seeking to hide from the government as some who do not meet the qualifications, or are in unfriendly school districts, fear persecution.

Major Setback

Ironically, Portugal has served as a haven for German homeschoolers fleeing persecution in their own country.

Salome Terraquente, a leader with the Association for Christian Education, told HSLDA that the new decree was a big setback and a big change from the previous approach to homeschooling regulation.

“Our rights have been taken away,” she said. “Before we did not need approval—homeschooling was our right. But now a parent needs authorization from their local school as well as the national education director. We don’t object to some oversight, but now we will have to present a portfolio whenever the school demands it. Each child will be reviewed by a school official to ensure the national curriculum is being followed and the parent must have a university degree just to apply—it is too much.”

Forging Ties

While attending the International School Choice and Reform Conference in January in Lisbon, I met with numerous homeschool families and organization leaders, including Sylvia and Salome.

I had harbored some hopes that the Education Ministry would issue more reasonable regulations. Previously the law recognized that it was the right of parents to choose home education, and as long as they enrolled under the oversight of a school, it was allowed. There were problems with this approach, but the new 16-page law is extreme, supremely burdensome and unnecessarily intrusive. The regulation appears designed to slow the growth of the homeschool movement.

It is manifestly unreasonable to assign discretionary approval authority to the government and to require a university degree to homeschool. Even more alarming is the fact the Portuguese regulation contains no meaningful protections from arbitrary discretion and abuse of power.

This approach goes against the American homeschooling experience, which has shown that parents can achieve excellent academic results whatever their own educational background. We believe one reason for this is that parents know their children best and are best-suited to direct their children’s learning.

The last American state that required homeschool parents to have a college education was West Virginia. It removed this unnecessary qualification in 2003, and today only nine states require that parents have a high school diploma.

Although Massachusetts and Rhode Island technically retain “approval” authority over home education, in practice families are uniformly able to homeschool with due process protections that are meaningful in the face of unwarranted disapproval.

Reason for Hope

Portuguese homeschoolers hope that the constitutional court will keep the new law from being enforced while it conducts its review. An election will take place in September, and it is hoped that a more freedom-friendly government will be elected.

This kind of regulation must be opposed as inherently unfair to motivated and caring parents of varying educational backgrounds, and an attack on homeschooling freedom everywhere.

Will you help us as we help the Portuguese homeschool movement? These new homeschool movements are small. Although they are determined and feisty, our help will go a long way to strengthen their resolve and enhance their efforts.

It’s a privilege to serve and protect the global homeschooling community. With your help we can continue to make homeschooling possible for generations.