Alabama
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Alabama

June 15, 2007

State Compels Unauthorized Reporting

In a memorandum to local public school superintendents dated May 31, 2007, Joseph B. Morton, state superintendent of education, notified them that all church schools and private schools in their respective areas are required to report their existence to the Alabama State Department of Education (SDE). According to the memorandum, all church schools are required to complete the 2007-2008 Annual Report of Non-Public Schools form and return it to the SDE. Most home instruction in Alabama is conducted through church schools, so the reporting requirement described in the SDE memorandum is of concern to all home educators whose children are enrolled in these schools.

Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote a letter to the state superintendent of education pointing out that no provision of the Alabama Code requires church schools to submit any such reports. Parents are required by Section 16-28-7 of the Alabama Code to file a church school enrollment form with their local public school superintendent at the time their child enrolls in a church school. This is the extent of information required to be provided to the public school system about church schools and their enrollment. Accordingly, it is HSLDA’s opinion that church schools do not have to complete any portion of the 2007-2008 Annual Report of Non-Public Schools form upon receipt of the form from public school officials.

Another part of the SDE memorandum indicated that church schools desiring to receive state or federal funding must qualify as private schools as defined in Section 16-28-1(1) of the Alabama Code. Black’s letter cited the provisions of Section 16-28-1(2) of the Code which states that one of the characteristics of a church school is that it “not receive any state or federal funding.” Therefore, if a church school meets all of the requirements of a private school in order to receive state or federal funding and then receives such funding, it is no longer a church school under Alabama law. It has changed from a church school to a private school. Private schools are subject to the reporting requirements described in the SDE memorandum and more.

Black requested the state superintendent of education issue an amended memorandum indicating that state law does not require church schools to complete any portion of the 2007-2008 Annual Report of Non-Public Schools. In the meantime, should any of our member families encounter difficulties with public school officials relating to this matter, they should contact HSLDA for assistance.