New Homeschool Freedom in Alabama?
In a few weeks, the law in Alabama changes. The words “home program” and “home schooled” will actually be included in the law for the first time. Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that this inclusion means they now have a homeschool freedom without regulation. Yet, regulations are still a part of the law.
Section 16-28-3 of the Code of Alabama requires all children ages 6-17 to “attend” a public school, private school, or church school. There is also an option to be instructed by a state certified private tutor. Please note that there is no option here for a “home” school.
So, how does one homeschool in Alabama? What is this new option for homeschoolers?
How to Homeschool in Alabama
Alabama families are able to homeschool when they enroll in a school that allows for home education. There is no state law that gives us any other option. (Of course, you could also become or employ a state certified private tutor!)
This school can now be a private school or a church school. Before this new law, it could only be a church school due to the regulations of private schools (such as teacher certification).
So, the first step to homeschooling in Alabama? Enroll in a school that allows home education or become/hire a state certified private tutor.
New Homeschool Freedom?
Many in Alabama are proclaiming that homeschool families can NOW establish their own schools. And, yes, it is true. It has always been true. It isn’t a “new” thing. A homeschool family could always establish a church school with the support of their local church. But, the new law allows a homeschool family to establish their own private school without an outside sponsor.
The information that is often not shared is the requirements of running a private school versus a church school. Many families are unaware of the exemptions that are awarded church schools. I want to challenge you to look at all your options before jumping into a situation that puts you and your family in a compromising situation.
Church School vs. Private School
A church school is required to:
- keep records of attendance,
- validate enrollment, and
- report withdrawals to local superintendents as well as the Department of Public Safety when a student is 19 years old or younger.
Parents of church school students are required to:
- submit a signed and validated enrollment form to their local school superintendent when a student first enrolls with a church school and
- submit attendance records to the church school for the school’s legal requirements.
A private school is required to:
- register annually with the State,
- submit statistics about the school to the State (including course of study, attendance, length of school year/term, etc.),
- report unexcused absences weekly,
- keep records of immunization or religious/medical exemptions,
- complete physical education requirements which conform to program/course outline developed by the Department of Education,
- meet building code requirements if more than 25 people meet regularly together for instruction,
- keep records of attendance,
- validate enrollment,
- report withdrawals to local superintendents as well as the Department of Public Safety when a student is 19 years old or younger, and
- report names and addresses of all children enrolled to local school superintendent by the end of the 5th day of the opening of the public school.
This is simply a list I have compiled from looking at the Code of Alabama and the legal analysis offered by HSLDA.
Please don’t look to me to give you all the requirements! Make sure you investigate the law yourself. This is for your family and your children. If you don’t feel confident to understand the law yourself, make sure you do have an attorney who is familiar with educational policies to guide you. HSLDA is a great place to start, but there are other attorneys who also specialize in defending homeschool rights as defined by the law.
Consider the Cost
When choosing between your school enrollment options, you will definitely need to look at the full cost. Many people quickly run to establish their own school just to save money. Others enroll in an established school to save time. Either way, there is a cost…
I haven’t always homeschooled in Alabama. I have been in states that have a true “home” school option which only required me to tell someone I was homeschooling…that was it. I didn’t have to pay anyone.
Private schools and church schools have to require tuition though. At the very least, there has to be someone who takes his/her time to sign and validate enrollment forms and collect/organize the attendance records.
Homeschool families need to be aware that the tuition is often used to offer a “rich” school experience. Some schools may have higher tuition, but they offer sports programs and clubs that require fees for the school as well as the student. Some schools work to protect their families by maintaining academic records and standards, which often require more time and money for the school.
Look for schools that are working for your family’s benefit. Is the tuition worth the benefits and requirements of a school? Be careful to enroll in a school that offers the services you need. Good schools have loyal families with good experiences and processes that protect and guide.
But, as a family, you may not be able to pay someone to maintain a school for you. You could pay the cost of time and establish your own school. You could keep your own records and validate your own forms. You could take the time to understand the requirements fully. People do it all over the United States…they control every bit of their children’s educational processes. It’s not strange, and it’s not impossible.
You do need to make sure you are ready to take on the time needed to establish your school correctly. You will be both administrator and teacher. You will be responsible to keep records accurately and send reports as required to local or state authorities.
Make sure you have an attorney available who will help you navigate the laws and requirements. Don’t do this without legal representation and counsel! There are those who will make it difficult for families who choose this option…those who do not comply with the law and put the microscope on individual private schools. You must be ready to stand firm in doing the right thing.
Give Homeschooling a Good Name
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17 NIV)
Let’s make our lawmakers’ work a joy. Let’s take the homeschool freedom that they have given us and use it responsibly. This not only benefits us personally, but also benefits the homeschool community in general.
When you hear others choosing options without full knowledge, encourage them to educate themselves before giving our lawmakers another burden to carry and correct. Let’s make the state of Alabama a great place to homeschool!
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Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.