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June 20, 2017

Puerto Rico now protects homeschooling at the highest level.

Puerto Rico Declares Homeschooling a Fundamental Right

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MIKE SMITH MIKE SMITH
HSLDA President

Puerto Rico is now the first among U.S. states and territories to recognize homeschooling as a fundamental right, thanks to a law signed by Governor Ricardo Rossello Nevares on June 7.

In other states and territories, we have successfully argued that homeschooling is within the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. This is in keeping with precedent established by the United States Supreme Court, which has recognized protection for parents’ educational choices arising from the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The first time the Supreme Court invoked this constitutional protection, it did so emphatically—in the 1925 case Pierce v. Society of Sisters. More recent decisions on the topic by the Supreme Court have been less clear.

But this issue was settled for parents in Puerto Rico when the new law, Legislative Act P. del. S. 255, declared homeschooling itself to be a fundamental right.

Currently in Puerto Rico, homeschooling families are exempt from public school attendance under the non-governmental entity school’s exemption. However, this action on the part of the legislature and governor will ensure that homeschooling families have the highest constitutional protections, just as we all do for rights such as free speech and free association.

Much of the credit for this monumental victory for parents goes to Carlos Perez, our local counsel in Puerto Rico. Carlos’ actions were prompted by a change in government policy requiring church schools to obtain a license before they could operate. Since homeschools also operate as private schools, it seemed appropriate to protect the right of homeschools as well as church schools.

This is truly a major pronouncement by Puerto Rico. By recognizing homeschooling as a fundamental right—the highest constitutional protection available—Puerto Rico has declared the value and importance of educational freedom. We applaud the efforts of all those who made this historic event possible.