Across the States
Homeschooler Denied State Aid
Recently, a single mother who is a member of Home School Legal Defense Association was told that her daughter was no longer eligible for state financial assistance because the girl was 16 and her homeschool program was not “approved.”
The Spokane community service office had misinterpreted the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Handbook to mean that homeschool parents were required to have their program approved by their local school district in order to be eligible for state financial aid under the WorkFirst program. Since our member “only” had the declaration of intent to homeschool form which she had submitted to the school district, but had no documentation of “approval,” she was denied state aid.
Washington complies with the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in providing state financial aid. In order to fulfill the welfare reforms enacted in 1996 by Congress, Washington's WorkFirst program requires individuals in certain age categories to either be “in school” or involved in a GED certificate program to receive state financial aid. Since the right to teach a child at home is recognized in Washington, a child is considered “in school” as long as his family is in compliance with the state homeschool law.
After HSLDA Staff Attorney Thomas J. Schmidt reviewed the DSHS handbook, he realized that a poor choice of words was one of the main causes of our member’s difficulties with the community service office. In the first paragraph describing how homeschool students could meet WorkFirst requirements, the handbook stated that the homeschool program had to be “approved” by the local school district.
Washington does not require homeschools to be approved by their school districts. Parents need only submit a declaration of their intent to homeschool to their district. Once this form is submitted, the child is considered to be “in school” and exempt from public school attendance.
Schmidt explained the state law to the Spokane office and pointed out that the very next paragraph in the handbook clarified that homeschool parents only need to furnish a copy of their declaration of intent form in order for their child to be eligible for TANF.
Once the local office received Schmidt’s letter, our member’s daughter was quickly reinstated and deemed eligible for state aid.
— by Thomas J. Schmidt