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November 20, 2006

Homeschooling in Puerto Rico—Frequently Asked Questions

Distributed by Home School Legal Defense Association

1. What is Homeschooling?

Many parents are choosing to teach their children at home in a non-classroom setting. Homeschooling is a fast-growing movement with around two million children being home educated nationwide. The number of families educating their children at home in Puerto Rico is not known, but is growing as well. There are many reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home. Many are concerned about their children receiving a religious education. Many parents are concerned about the safety of their children in public schools and the lack of values being taught there. Many others believe that their children learn better in an intimate setting in the family where the educational program can be directed to the child’s need, rather than the child being manipulated into the educational program. Some parents are educating their children at home to meet the specific needs of children that have learning disabilities. With the growth of homeschooling comes more scrutiny from elected officials and bureaucrats within the government. This document is intended to address questions by prospective and current homeschool families, government officials, and any other person having an interest in home education in Puerto Rico.

2. Is Homeschooling Legal in Puerto Rico?

Yes. Attendance in public schools in Puerto Rico is compulsory between 5 and 18 years of age. However, attendance at public school shall not be compulsory for those who are receiving education in schools established under the auspices of non-governmental entities. While non-governmental entity schools are not clearly defined or regulated by law, only a primary or secondary academic school which declares, promises, announces, or expresses the intention of granting certificates, diplomas, degrees or licenses is required to licensed by the General Council of Education (Consejo General de Educación). Most homeschoolers operate as non-governmental entity schools. These homeschools typically use transcripts to demonstrate completed work rather than diplomas.

The Departamento de La Familia (through ADSEF, Administración de Desarrollo Socio-Económico de La Familia), which administers the nutritional or financial assistance program for indigent families, recognizes homeschooling as a valid alternative of fulfilling the academic requirement for eligibility purposes.

3. Are There any Reported Court Cases in Puerto Rico Regarding Homeschooling?

No. Although there are no court cases, existing law clearly permits any family to operate a non-governmental entity school in their home. Although there is no specific law in Puerto Rico that recognizes homeschooling or establishes any criteria for setting up a homeschool, homeschoolers can clearly meet the non-governmental entity exemption from public school attendance for children. At least 10 states have a similar situation in that homeschoolers operate as private schools since there is no specific statute or law defining homeschooling in those states or establishing the requirements thereof.

4. Are There Teacher Qualification Requirements for Home Educating as Non-Governmental Entity Schools?

No.

5. Are any Specific Standardized Tests or other Kinds of Tests Required of Home Educated Students Attending a Non-Governmental Entity School?

No. Puerto Rico has left it up to the parents offering home education to decide if their children are receiving an adequate education. This is consistent with the view that God has ordained the family through parents to be responsible for the upbringing and education of children, not the state. Therefore, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should view home education as a benefit to the territory. Parents choosing home education in Puerto Rico are saving the government money by not sending their children to public schools while continuing to pay taxes, thereby subsidizing public schools.

6. Shouldn’t Home Educating Teachers and Children be Regulated More?

No. National studies demonstrate how well homeschoolers do on standardized testing. Homeschoolers test 30 percentile points above the norm, on the average. Although there is no specific survey that has been done of Puerto Rico home educated students, there is no reason to believe that the test results in Puerto Rico would be any different than the national scores. The parents choosing home education in Puerto Rico are doing so because they believe it is in the best interest of their children and because they are confident that they can give their children a better education than they could receive in the public schools where they would be attending. This is a positive trend in Puerto Rico in light of the fact that on any given day, as many as 40% of the children that should be attending public schools, are not. Many colleges and universities admit homeschool graduates today, including the University of Puerto Rico, attesting to the adequacy of their preparation and the conscientiousness of their parents in providing their education.

7. Have There been Efforts to Regulate Homeschooling in Puerto Rico?

Yes. H.P. 3048 was introduced by the Chairman of the Education & Culture Committee, José Havier Garcia Cabon, in the 2002 legislative session. HSLDA has labeled H.P. 3048 the worst homeschooling bill proposed in the history of home education. H.P. 3048 was never passed, but a new piece of legislaion, House Bill P.C. 2754, made it to a vote on November 6. It, too, was defeated, but due to a technical maneuver the bill can be voted on again in the next legislative session without being introduced again and undergoing debate in committee.

Click here to view the entire text of P.C. 2754 in Spanish. Below is a translation of some of the more dangerous provisions of the bill:

Section 5.—Notice on intent to homeschool

The parents, tutors, or legal custodians will notify the General Education Council their intent of establishing and maintaining a home education program. The notice will be a written notice signed by the parent, tutor or legal custodian, and will include: child name, his/her DOB, age, sex, home address, telephone number, current school grade or its equivalent, if it applies; school year (grade) he/she will pursue under homeschooling, educational institution where he comes from. It will also include a check or money order in the amount of $125.00 per home, under the Coumcil President’s name. Such a check will be deposited in a special account under the Council’s name. The special account’s funds will be used exclusively to cover those expenses incurred by the Council during the law’s implementation.

The parents, tutors or legal custodians will file this notice before the Council no later than 30 days after having begun the homeschool program. In the case of parents, tutors or legal custodians that, upon approval of this law are currently homeschooling, they must notify the Council within 60 days of the law’s approval.

The Council, once notice is received, will mail copy of the notice document, stamped with its official stamp. This document, copy of the notice document, will constitute sufficient academic evidence for any goverrment purpose. In no way will any agency discriminate against homeschooled children, nor under any circumstances.

Section 6.—Purpose of Notice

The notice of intent to establish and maintain a homeschool program has the purpose of allowing the Council to maintain information for statistical purposes; and, upon the request of the parent, tutor, or legal custodian, for the purpose of offering help in the (parents’) educational efforts. Additionally, such notice will be kept in file, to protect the homeschooling families from accusations of educational negligence or unjustified absences from school.

Section 7.—Notice of Intent to Stop Homeschooling

The Parent, tutor or legal guardian of the minor will notify the Council his/her intent to cease homeschooling. In such a case, the minor will be enrolled in a public or private educational institution, unless he/she is sent to a new alternative education program, which will have to be notified. Such notice will arrive no later than 15 days after having ceased the homeschooling process.

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Section 9.—Portfolio

The parent, tutor or legal custodian will maintain a portfolio that evidences the minor’s progress, which will be subject to evaluation every four years, with prior notice from the Council. The evaluation will be for the purpose of confirming the compliance with the educational philosophy and mission selected by the parent, tutor or legal custodian. The file of each homeschooled child will include the following information: educational materials, activities, pieces of school work, tests or evaluations of the minor, vaccination reports, except in case that this goes against the minor’s religious practices and which information has been previously notified to the Council, etc.

The portfolio will be kept by the parents, tutors or legal custodians for a term of six years, after the child has graduated from high school.

8. Should Homeschoolers Agree to some Law that would Clarify Homeschooling in Puerto Rico?

No. The law is clear that home educators can qualify as non-governmental entity schools in Puerto Rico. Because homeschooling families are responsibly teaching their children at home and providing good citizens for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, there is no justification for regulating home education in the Commonwealth. The fact is that individuals do a better job when they realize that they have the full responsibility for the success of the project. Regulation will restrict the number of parents that will initially qualify to be able to teach their children at home and interfere with the genius of home education, which is the ability to take an educational program and shape it to the individual needs of the child. To the contrary, any regulation will normally require standardization of education, testing, and evaluation, which is not in the best interest of children.

9. Does HSLDA Assist with Verification of School Attendance for Purposes of Obtaining Government Benefits?

Yes. HSLDA will provide homeschool certification and fax to the caseworker. The following details are required for certification:

  • Full name and social security number of recipient;
  • Full name, grade level, and social security number of all homeschool students;
  • Full name and address of case worker, and fax number if available.

Our certifications are backed up by the availability of our local attorney in Puerto Rico. For more than six years, HSLDA has been acting as a clearinghouse for the Departamento de La Familia (ADSEF) concerning homeschooling certification. Other government agencies and programs followed suit, such as Programa de Asistencia Médica (“tarjeta de salud”) and Plan 8 (housing incentive).

10. How does HSLDA Handle Non-English Speaking Members?

HSLDA uses a Tele-Interpreters, a service that connects with an interpreter and enables us to communicate with any non-English speaking member. The service has been extremely fast and reliable. No one should feel as though language is a barrier in communicating with a representative at HSLDA.

11. Where can I Find Additional Information?

The Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a website with access to substantial materials on homeschooling. In addition, Michael Smith, the president of HSLDA, is the attorney assigned to direct the defense of the freedom to homeschool in Puerto Rico. He and his assistant, Pat Ramirez, are available to assist home educators in Puerto Rico. Additionally, HSLDA works in conjunction with Carlos Pérez-Sierra, an attorney in San Juan, to provide immediate legal response to member families of HSLDA. Membership information can be obtained online through the website or by contacting HSLDA at 540-338-5600.