April 7, 2003
Michigan Study Recommends State Regulation of Homeschoolers

A recent policy report released by the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University recommends registration with the Department of Education for Michigan homeschools. The report, entitled "Michigan's Role in Monitoring Home Schools" examines the question of what role the state should play in monitoring homeschool families.

The report observes that there are an estimated 100,000 "missing" students in the state of Michigan who are homeschooled by their parents without any state regulation. The report argues that Michigan has a constitutional responsibility to educate its children for the common good and that the current homeschool law does not allow the state to fulfill this responsibility: "[T]he lack of even minimal requirements conveys the message that parents are not accountable to anyone for their child's education. Each state must decide how to balance the rights of parents, the rights of children, and the interests of the state."

In order to balance this perceived conflict of interests, the Education Policy Center recommends that Michigan require parents to register their homeschool: "At the very least, the State should amend the current 3(f) exemption to require that home school parents register with the Michigan Department of Education or their local ISD. This system...would signal that the State takes seriously its obligation, and that of parents, to leave no child behind."

In the 1980s and early 1990s, homeschoolers in Michigan were incredibly harassed by local school districts and the State Department of Education simply because they chose to homeschool. Many families were taken to court. During those years, we represented thousands of homeschool families, whose right to homeschool was challenged. Fortunately for the homeschoolers in Michigan, in our case People v. DeJonge, 501 N.W.2d 127, (Mich. 1993), the state

supreme court ruled in favor of the homeschool families. The court found the requirement that parents be certified teachers in order to homeschool, an unconstitutional violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

A few years later, the legislature saw the importance of protecting parents' rights in the area of education and enacted MCLA sec. 380.01. "It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children." This reaffirmed the basic fundamental right of all parents, including homeschool parents, to have the right to choose the form of education they deem best for their children.

Finally, the right to choose homeschooling free from unnecessary state regulation and supervision was specifically protected in the homeschool exemption MCLA sec. 380.1561 (3)(f). This law encompasses all the legal obligations of a home school family in the state of Michigan. "The child is being educated at the child's home by his or her parent or legal guardian in an organized educational program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar."

This law, in addition to all other authority referred to above, clearly establishes that parents have the right to choose homeschooling. The burden to prove the family is not home educating is carried by the school district. The homeschool families are presumed to be fulfilling this law unless the school district has probable cause or credible evidence that they are not.

All the studies that have been done in the last 15 years show that homeschoolers generally score above average on standardized achievements tests--both in the elementary and the secondary grades. The two college entrance exams, the ACT and the SAT, have also tracked homeschooler performance and have discovered that most homeschoolers score above average on these exams as well. Finally, after graduation, many homeschoolers enter college. The colleges who have surveyed their student body have all found that homeschooled graduates usually have a higher GPA than students coming from other school backgrounds.

Contrary to the opinion of some, research demonstrates that there is no positive correlation between state regulation of home schools and performance of homeschool students. According to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, the degree of governmental regulation has no significant effect on the academic performance of homeschoolers. Whether a state imposes a high degree of regulation, low regulation, or no regulation, homeschool student test score averages are nearly identical. Such regulations may be legitimately questioned since there is no apparent benefit to student learning.

See: Home School Achievement

Home School Legal Defense Association will be watching the Michigan Legislature to ensure that no changes are made to the homeschool law. We have worked with several friends in the state legislature who assure us that they do not want to regulate homeschoolers. We will keep you updated on any attempts to change the law.

You can read the full report at: