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Washington

May 1, 2006

Homeschooling Legal for Workfirst Program

Recently a Home School Legal Defense Association single mother was told that her daughter was no longer eligible for state financial assistance because she was 16 and homeschooled. The Spokane Community Service Office had interpreted the Washington Department of Social and Health Services Handbook to require homeschool parents to have their program approved by their local school district in order to be eligible under the WorkFirst Program. Since our member family "only" had their declaration of intent form that they submitted to their district, they were denied state aid.

Washington complies with the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in providing state financial aid. In order to meet the welfare reforms enacted in 1996, Washington's WorkFirst Program requires individuals in a certain age category to either be in school or in a GED certificate program. As the right to teach a child at home is recognized in Washington, the child will be considered to be "in school" as long as the family is in compliance with the homeschool law.

After HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt reviewed the DSHS Handbook it quickly became clear that a poor choice of wording was one of the main reasons our member was having problems. In the first paragraph describing how homeschool students could meet the WorkFirst requirements the Handbook stated that the homeschool program had to be "approved" by the local school district.

Washington is not an approval state. Instead, parents submit a declaration of their intent to teach their child at home. Once that is done the child is exempt from public school attendance and considered to be "in school."

Schmidt explained state law to the Spokane office and pointed out that the very next paragraph in the Handbook stated that homeschool parents only need to provide a copy of the declaration of intent form they had filed in order for their child to be eligible for TANF.

Once the local office recieved this letter our member's daughter was quickly reinstated and deemed eligible for state assistance.