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Puerto Rico

February 2016

Homeschooling in Puerto Rico—Frequently Asked Questions

Compiled by Home School Legal Defense Association

1. Why do parents homeschool?

Although homeschooling is not a new educational option, it did not become well-known until the 1990s, after over a decade of success led to a rapid increase in the number of children being homeschooled. In the U.S. alone, there are currently around 1.7 million homeschooled students.

There are many reasons why parents are choosing to teach their children at home rather than send them to academic institutions. Many desire to give their children a religious education, others are concerned about safety and values in the public schools, and still others want to meet the specific needs of gifted learners or children with learning disabilities. While their backgrounds and reasons for homeschooling vary, most of these parents believe that their children can learn better in an intimate family setting, with an educational program that is directed to the students’ strengths and needs, rather than in an impersonal, institutionalized setting.

2. Is homeschooling legal in Puerto Rico?

Yes. Although Puerto Rico law requires that students between ages 5 and 18 attend public school, attendance at public school is not compulsory for those who are receiving an education in schools established under the auspices of nongovernmental entities. The law does not clearly define or regulate nongovernmental-entity schools; the only school of this type that is required to be licensed by the Council of Education of Puerto Rico (Consejo de Educación de Puerto Rico, CEPR) is a primary or secondary academic school that declares, promises, announces, or expresses the intention of granting certificates, diplomas, degrees, or licenses. Most parents who homeschool do so as nongovernmental-entity schools. Because they use transcripts, rather than diplomas, to demonstrate the children’s educations, these homeschools do not have to be licensed.

The Department of the Family (Departamento de La Familia through ADSEF, Administración de Desarrollo Socio-Económico de La Familia), which administers the nutritional and financial assistance program for indigent families, may ask families to fulfill an academic requirement to be eligible for the program. The department recognizes homeschooling as a valid alternative for meeting this requirement.

There is no judicial precedent in Puerto Rico regarding homeschooling.

3. Are homeschools required to comply with teacher-qualification or testing requirements?

No. If a family is homeschooling as a nongovernmental-entity school and is not granting certificates, diplomas, degrees, or licenses, there are no regulations or requirements with which to comply.

4. Does Puerto Rico need a homeschool law?

No. The law in Puerto Rico is clear that home educators can qualify as nongovernmental-entity schools. Any additional law would only serve to introduce homeschooling regulations, and government regulation—no matter how well-intentioned—always restricts freedom.

Homeschooling works because it enables parents to individually tailor each child’s education, unlimited by the centralization and standardization inherent in traditional schooling. Any regulation will restrict this freedom in some way, whether by initially disqualifying some parents from homeschooling, controlling what and how children must be taught, or requiring that parents spend time cutting through red tape rather than teaching their children. By choosing to homeschool, parents have taken direct responsibility for educating their children and preparing them to be good citizens; there is no reason for the state to regulate them.

5. Have efforts been made to regulate homeschooling in Puerto Rico?

Yes. The most recent was Proyecto del Senado 793, introduced in 2015. This bill would have required parents to annually file a declaration of intent to homeschool in front of a notary, providing the full names and ages of the children being homeschooled and their relationship to the person filing the declaration. Parents would also have been required to provide to the government their age, occupation, and highest grade level of education, and to list all the subjects being taught in their homeschool.

These unnecessarily burdensome regulations infringing on the privacy of families were not the legislation’s main problem, however. Article 4 stated that home education must be “adequate” and “efficient,” without defining these vague terms. Instead, the Council of Education of Puerto Rico (CEPR) would have been left to determine the meaning of the terms. CEPR would also have had unbridled power to make decisions regarding a child’s education—including enrolling the child in school—if the council believed the child was not receiving a satisfactory education at home. P. del S. 793 did not provide a process for parents to appeal such a decision by the council.

The bill was opposed by hundreds of homeschooling families who personally visited the senators’ offices, asking each senator to vote against P. del S. 793’s unconstitutional intrusion into homeschool freedom. They presented 11,000 signatures on a petition to withdraw the bill to the bill’s author, Hon. Cirilo Tirado. Nineteen homeschool organizations, including HSLDA, voiced their formal opposition to the bill.

Although the bill was amended in an attempt to mitigate the opposition to it, it would have still required parents to provide private information to the government on an annual declaration of intent.

6. Aren’t regulations necessary to make sure homeschooled children get a good education ?

No. Several national studies show homeschoolers performing well above average on standardized tests—even if their parents do not have college degrees or teacher qualifications. Many colleges and universities, including the University of Puerto Rico, admit homeschool graduates, thus attesting to the conscientious preparation these students have received from their parents.

By contrast, despite government regulation of Puerto Rico’s public schools, as many as 40% of enrolled students do not attend on any given day.

Homeschooling parents have several assets that teachers in traditional schools do not: freedom, an excellent student-teacher ratio, an intimate knowledge of their children’s strengths and needs, and a commitment to their children’s well-being. No matter what their educational background, parents can successfully determine their children’s courses of study, obtain teaching materials, teach and assess their children, and decide how to meet special learning needs. They do not need regulations to ensure their children are successfully taught.

7. Does Home School Legal Defense Association assist homeschooling families with verification of school attendance for the purpose of obtaining government benefits ?

Yes. Members of HSLDA who are homeschooling in Puerto Rico may contact us, and we will provide homeschool certification and fax it to the caseworker. The following details are required for certification:

  • Full name and Social Security number of the benefits recipient;
  • Full name, grade level, and Social Security number of each homeschooled student;
  • Full name and address of caseworker, and fax number if available.

Our certifications are backed up by the availability of our local attorney in Puerto Rico. HSLDA has been providing homeschool certifications to the Departamento de La Familia (ADSEF) for many years, as well as to other government agencies and programs, such as Programa de Asistencia Médica (“tarjeta de salud”) and Plan 8 (housing incentive).

8. How does HSLDA handle contacts from members who don’t speak English?

HSLDA has an interpreter on staff for Spanish-speaking members. In addition, HSLDA uses Tele-interpreters, a service that connects with interpreters to enable us to assist our members in many languages. The service has been extremely fast and reliable. Language should not be a barrier for those wishing to speak to an HSLDA representative.

9. Where can I find additional information?

Visit Home School Legal Defense Association’s website, hslda.org, for free information about homeschool laws, how to homeschool, and finding local resources and support.

Homeschooling families are encouraged to become members of HSLDA in order to receive personal advice from our attorneys and education consultants. HSLDA President Mike Smith and his assistant, Melissa Covey, are the legal team assigned to assist our member families homeschooling in Puerto Rico. San Juan attorney Carlos Pérez-Sierra works in conjunction with HSLDA to provide local legal counsel. Learn about HSLDA membership at hslda.org/join or 540-338-5600.