Michigan Gains Ground
Although Michigan is one of the last two states that requires all teachers (including home school parents) to be state certified, two positive developments have occurred which give hope of a possible favorable change in the future.
THE SHERIDAN ROAD CASE
First of all, on May 2, 1988, the Ingham County Circuit Court amended its judgment in Sheridan Road Baptist Church v. State, No. 80-26205-AZ. The Sheridan Road case had originally ruled that all teachers in Michigan must be certified and that such a requirement was constitutional [348 N.W. 2d 263 (Mich. App.1984)]. This decision was left intact after the Michigan Supreme Court split 3 to 3 over the issue of whether the certification requirement was constitutional.
However, this recent amended judgment finally allows nonpublic schools to use non-certified teachers. Under the May 2, 1988 Order of the Ingham Court, nonpublic schools are only required to deliver information regarding 1) attendance, 2) enrollment, 3) number of hours and days, 4) a list of subjects, and 5) evidence that all the teachers have earned a four-year college degree, to the Michigan Department of Education or to a third party (such as the Fundamental Christian Coalition of Michigan or the Michigan Association of Christian Schools, or an attorney). The third party must then forward this information to the Michigan Department of Education. This information must be delivered by the fourth Friday in September.
Although it is clear that this order applies to nonpublic church schools, it is unclear whether it applies to nonpublic home schools. HSLDA is still studying the option of whether home schoolers with college degrees may file under this recent Order. Nonetheless, this Order does prove one important point: a lesser restrictive means than certification for regulating private education has been recognized by the Michigan Department of Education and by the Court. This directly contradicts the Michigan Court of Appeals decision which upheld certification as “the least restrictive means” of regulating private education.
THE DEJONGE CASE
The second major development is that on July 28, 1988, the Michigan Court of Appeals formerly agreed to hear the Michigan v. DeJonge, (No. 106149) case which is challenging the teacher certification requirement as unconstitutional. Attorney Chris Klicka filed a lengthy brief with the Court of Appeals in February asking the Court to take the case. (The Michigan Court of Appeals has the discretionary authority to accept or reject cases). In his brief, Klicka emphasized that the Court of Appeals in Sheridan Road had applied the wrong constitutional test and therefore, had decided erroneously on the issue of certification. (See “Is Certification Compelling,” The Home School Court Report, January–March 1988). The acceptance of the DeJonge case by the Court of Appeals indicates the possibility that the Court may reverse itself on certification. In the next two months, briefs will be filed by all parties and oral arguments will be set soon thereafter. Meanwhile, attorney Dave Kallman of Lansing, who is serving as local counsel, obtained a stay of sentence from the Court pending the decision.
In conclusion, the requirement for the certification of home school parent/teachers may be starting to erode. Please pray that justice will be done in this case. Also pray for Mr. DeJonge who is recovering from severe burns after the family’s house trailer exploded.
NOTE: One more development has recently occurred in Michigan which may benefit home schoolers. On June 27, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Houghton Lake Community Schools and held that there is no legal requirement that a school hold 180 days of class. The only consequence of holding class for less than 180 days is a reduced state aid payment.