Last year, TPERN introduced parents to the concept of home school co-enrollment as a means of complying with compulsory attendance laws while holding kids out of school during testing windows. Two groups had a problem with it: school lawyers and some full time home schoolers. While we respect the opinion of the full time home schoolers who teach their kids day in and day out, we strongly disagree that TPERN is encouraging parents to game the system or to somehow demean what full time home school parents do. As to the school lawyers, we continue to be unimpressed with their willful misreading of law and statute in an indefensible effort to defeat parents’ rights to teach their kids at home.
Let’s boil down the school’s argument to its essence: Parents do not have a right to provide instruction at home in academic subjects, religion, citizenship, arts or vocational education if they choose to enroll their kids in public school. When stated on its face, stripped of erroneous citations, it is clear that no school will ever go to court and attempt to defend that premise. If there were ever a plainly unconstitutional argument made by schools, this would be it. No school can deny a parent the right to enroll in both public schools and private educational settings, including home schooling. Now, what can the schools do? They can demand that you enroll as a full time student. Public schools are not required to accept part time enrollees. They may do so if they wish (it is not prohibited in any way), but they cannot be forced to do so. They can record absences as unexcused for grading and credit purposes, if a student misses scheduled classes for home school instruction. As mentioned in our initial article, however, we do believe the parents have a colorable argument that such absences cannot be used to show violations of the compulsory attendance law.
So if a school tells you that home school co-enrollment is not permitted, you should simply tell them (a) there is no law against it; (b) because my daughter is enrolling as a full time student in public school, you do not have the discretion to reject her; and (c) constitutionally, the school cannot prevent me from providing instruction to my child in our home on any matter that I, as a parent, see fit to teach. Some school lawyers cite a TEA decision claiming it rejects dual enrollment. However, that decision merely determined that a school district could not be compelled to accept a part time student for one class a day. If the student had offered to enroll in the minimum number of classes required by the District, we believe the case would have been decided differently.
Let’s be honest. Parents teach their kids at home all the time, whether they are enrolled in public schools or not. This has always been legal and always will be legal. It is outside the scope of the school to say what you can and can’t do in your own home. The only thing that home school co-enrollment changes is the removal of the truancy threat against parents and kids. It is this loss of control the schools fear. That is what is behind all of their protestations. They know they can’t stop you, but they will lie to try to get you to back down.
Stand up for yourselves and your kids.