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November 3, 2006

Letter No Reason to Consider Charter Schools

Member families with fewer than six students enrolled in their private school received copies of a letter from the Morongo Unified School District. The letter alarmed some of our members. It was from the Coordinator of Child Welfare and Attendance. The letter references each parents’ filing of a Private School Affidavit to establish a private school in their homes. The letter also includes a summary of the law pursuant to Education Code 48222 and 33190.

The most chilling part of the letter indicated that exemptions from compulsory school attendance are valid only after verification by public school officials that the private school has complied with the provisions of Ed Code 33190. The concern expressed by our members was, “what does verification mean?”

The school district letter goes on to state correctly that this verification is properly initiated only when there is a complaint against parents that their child is not attending school. The school district then is required to make contact with the private school to determine whether an affidavit has been filed pursuant to Ed Code 33190, and confirm that the child in question is enrolled in the private school. Upon confirmation of these two facts, the child is deemed exempt from public school attendance.

There have been some school districts in the past, and probably will continue to be some in the future, whose officials believe that their authority to “verify” goes beyond the actual confirmation of attendance and the filing of the private school affidavit. They assume they are a regulatory agency over private schools and can determine whether the school is in compliance with the requirements of Ed Code 48222, which requires private schools to be taught by persons “capable of teaching” and provide instruction in the “several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools,” among other things.

The good news at the Morongo Unified School District letter is that they acknowledge that they are not a regulatory agency.

Nevertheless, this information provided by the school district regarding their investigatory powers has been considered by some homeschoolers as an implied threat, and the conclusion is, you should enroll your children in a public-school-at-home program.

To further support this concern, the second paragraph of the Morongo USD letter references greater emphasis on standards-based instruction and school accountability because of No Child Left Behind legislation. The conclusion that could be drawn is that if parents have any concerns about the education of their children, they should investigate the alternative of enrolling their children in a public-school-at-home education program such as a school district-run independent study program using state-approved materials.

We want to assure you that if you continue to comply with the private school exemption in California, you are legal and your child is legitimately exempted from public school attendance. Additionally, many homeschool graduates are entering college without difficulty today. There is no need to be concerned about your child being discriminated against because you privately homeschool.

The University of California system schools are the most difficult for homeschoolers to enter. However, it is not because of the No Child Left Behind legislation. The California Board of Regents now requires that courses taken by students in high school be approved by an accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. We’re not aware of any private independent study homeschool programs that have sought accreditation.

There are two options available to homeschoolers, however. The first option is if a student achieves high scores on his or her college admissions tests, or qualifies as an “exception” student, as determined by the registrar of the school.

The bottom line is there is no reason for homeschoolers in Morongo USD to give up their private homeschool status by enrolling their children in a public-school-at-home program through the school district. We have addressed this issue in many articles. To find out in more detail why HSLDA strongly discourages enrollment in public-school-at-home programs, view our issue analyses on virtual charter schools.