Bureau of Census Surveys Private Schools
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census sent a Private Schools Survey to all private school affidavit filers in the state of California. Although the survey appears to be directed primarily at “institutional” private schools, one of the written questions asks, “Is a major role of this school to support home schooling?” In a state where the legality of home schooling is continually challenged many parents are reluctant to flag themselves as home schoolers.
The survey clearly indicates that participation is not mandatory, nor is there a penalty for not responding. However, almost every family that chose not to participate in the survey has been sent two to three additional copies of the questionnaire which were accompanied by requests that they complete and return it.
These mailings have been followed by 3, 4, 5, and even 6 telephone calls from census takers pressuring the families to respond and asking for the names and ages of their children. Parents have also been told that refusal to respond is not sufficient; the census taker must have a reason why they have declined to participate in the survey.
Michael Smith spoke to one of the census takers and explained why many home schoolers are reluctant to give out this information. At the conclusion of their lengthy discussion, however, the census taker indicated that she would continue to call the families, adding that she needs a reason for their refusal to respond to the questionnaire.
HSLDA advises families that do not wish to participate in the survey and have received telephone contacts regarding this matter, to firmly tell the census taker that they are not going to respond to the questions and that continuing phone calls will be deemed harassment.
Schools Districts Continue to Probe for more Student Information
In addition to the Department of Commerce's survey, many school districts still send out their own “Private School Survey” to local private schools. These surveys request the names and addresses of all students enrolled in the private school.
Public schools have also sent correspondence to private school administrators in their district requesting information on the district of residence for each of the children enrolled in the private school.
Both of these requests for student information exceed the private school reporting requirements pursuant to $33190 of the Education Code. Parents and school administrators should respond to these requests by indicating that this information exceeds the school district's jurisdiction and that they have complied with all of the reporting requirements of the Education Code by filing a private school affidavit.
The only instance where it may be appropriate to give a child's name is when verifying the enrollment of a particular child for a Child Welfare Attendance officer who is investigating a truancy charge. In this circumstance, only the information necessary to confirm enrollment regarding the subject child should be given.
Monitoring Private Schools
A Home School Legal Defense Association member family in the Kerman Unified School District recently notified us that the school district had contacted them in an attempt to arrange a meeting with school officials. The school district stated that their reason for holding the meeting was because they “need to monitor” the home school to ensure that it “follows the required curriculum of the district and maintains proper attendance records.”
This is a typical contact by public school officials who believe that it is their responsibility to “verify” or “approve” private schools through curriculum review and attendance records. Section 48222 of the California Education Code requires that private schools “offer instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools.” Private schools are required to teach some of the same subjects as the public school, but they are not required to use any particular curriculum.
It continues to be HSLDA's position that the public school's authority over the private school ends with the “verification by the attendance supervisor … that the private school has complied with the provisions of $ 33190 requiring the annual filing … of an affidavit.” HSLDA will continue to resist any attempts by public school officials to approve private schools by review of curriculum, attendance records, or teacher qualifications.
Home schooling families should contact HSLDA before agreeing to meet with school officials who are attempting to “verify the contents of their affidavit.”
Section 33190 of the Education Code requires private schools to file an affidavit “between the first and 15th day of October of each year.” While this is the deadline for annual filing of the affidavit, it does not mean that private schools may only be established during this time period. Establishing private schools is a legal option any time during the school year.
Home School Legal Defense Association continues to recommend, however, that in order to achieve the smoothest mid-year transition from public school to home school, families should consider enrolling their child in a satellite school, or a California-based private school independent study program, which has filed the private school affidavit. Families may then file independently the following October.