Action in Alabama
Since 1983, homeschoolers in Alabama have had two legal ways of homeschooling. Either the teaching has to be done by a certified tutor or the homeschool could be operated “as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis which do not receive any state or federal funding” (Alabama Code 16-28-1).
The church school exemption was passed for all parents who held religious convictions which would not allow them or their schools to be licensed, certified, or accredited. Most parents who homeschool hold these very same convictions. The intent of the law, therefore, appears to protect all parents who send their children to a church school. The law does not require church schools to have any certain number of students or to meet in any particular type of building. Therefore, from reading the law on its face, a church school must only operate as a ministry of a church or denomination, on a nonprofit basis, without receiving any state or federal funds. The parent must also annually notify the school district that their children are enrolled in a church school (§ 16-28-7).
However, the state superintendent, Wayne Teague, has stated in a June 16, 1987, letter to a church school that had homeschool “satellites,” that he does not think that it meets the criteria of a church school as found in § 16-28-1. He thinks homeschools can only operate if they are using certified tutors. However, it is merely his opinion which has no force of law whatsoever. Besides, he left open the possibility that other church schools than the one he was writing to could meet the criteria of a church school under § 16-28-1. Basically, Teague asserts that each school district will have to interpret the law for itself.
Homeschools have been operating under the church school exemption ever since 1983 with minimal objection from most school districts. The longer homeschools operate under the church school exemption, the more established the practice will become.
This year, local school districts have made threats to HSLDA members concerning their church schools in their homes. However, no threats have been carried out. One superintendent was prepared to force a homeschool family to put their children in school the same day he contacted them but backed off after talking with HSLDA’s legal staff. HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka has counseled dozens of families as to how to handle their school districts and how to set up a church school. If an HSLDA member is not operating under the church school exemption or using a certified teacher, they may want to write HSLDA and ask for counsel on how to set one up.