The Private School Option - Homeschool (page 2)
Children are exempt from compulsory attendance if they "are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching." (§48222) A private school has been defined as "any school, whether conducted for profit or not, giving a course of training similar to that given in a public school at or below the twelfth grade, including but not limited to schools owned or operated by any church." (Vehicle Code §492.) This broad definition includes home-based private schools as well as private school cooperatives and private school independent study programs. Whereas some of the private school programs operated by others may benefit some families, many families establish their own private schools. This section discusses how to do that.
A private school is established by following the requirements in the Education Code. Once the school has been established, it must file a private school affidavit annually (§33190.) This affidavit does not establish a school; it merely lets the California Department of Education (CDE) know that a school has been established. Any individual may establish a private school in any location without a teaching credential or a business motive as long as he or she follows these statutory requirements.
Children in private schools in California are not required to take any standardized tests. The legislature has clearly chosen to let parents determine whether their children are being educated satisfactorily.
All California private schools, those home-based and those not, are required to keep the following records:
- Attendance records (§48222)
- Courses of study offered (§33190)
- Faculty qualifications (§33190)
- Criminal record summaries (§§33190 and 44237)
- Immunization records or waivers (Health and Safety Code §120335.)
- The private school affidavit (formerly known as an R-4) (§33190)
We recommend that you keep these records in two separate binders. The first binder should hold the records that a government official, such as an attendance officer, is legally entitled to see without a warrant or a subpoena: a copy of the filed private school affidavit, your attendance records, and a letter verifying that the children are enrolled in and attending the school. The second binder should hold all of the other required records identified in the list above: courses of study offered, faculty qualifications, criminal record summaries, and immunizations records or waivers. Although you are required to keep these, no public official is entitled to see them without a subpoena. In fact, we believe that many of these records cannot even be seen with a subpoena. However, the law requires you to have them, and you are signing, under penalty of perjury, that you do have them.
Homeschoolers often keep additional records such as the work completed, and we recommend that you do keep sufficient records to help you substantiate work completed in case the student transfers to another school or needs transcripts for college applications. However, these records are not legally required and should not be volunteered to any government official.
Probably for reasons having to do with the separation of church and state, the California statutes are very clear that government has no right to inspect any private school teacher qualifications, student work, curriculum or the like. Health codes obviously apply to larger schools, but understand that no one is entitled to see or inspect anything relating to your school other than what is explicitly identified above.
A. Attendance Records
Attendance records can be as simple as a one-page calendar containing boxes for each day of the school year, with a notation at the bottom stating that days absent are indicated with a mark. You are free to decide the length of each school day and school year and when it is in session.
B. Courses of Study
Generally, instruction must be in English and "in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools" (§48222), but how or what you teach within those branches is up to you. To meet this requirement your school could keep a printed copy of the code sections that set forth the branches of study the state requires schools to offer. The "adopted course of study for grades 1 to 6" is set forth in §51210, and the "adopted course of study for grades 7 to 9" is set forth in §§51220, 51220.5, and 51221 (these lists are fairly general and far less specific than the state standards that public schools must teach). Another alternative is to obtain a copy of the courses of study offered by a local public school. Although instruction must be offered in those areas by the school, it is not necessary to teach each and every subject. You are free to decide which courses would most benefit your students and how to teach them. However, a court may decide that your school is illegal if certain subjects are not offered. (See In re Shinn (1961) 195 Cal.App.2d 683.)
C. Faculty and Employees
Teachers in private schools do not need to hold state teaching credentials, even though many state officials seem to think they do. The statute is very clear on this point. §48222 requires that the teachers be "capable of teaching," but this phrase is not explained or defined. We believe most people who can speak and read competently in English generally could be capable.
Most home-based private schools do not have any employees because the parents are the primary teachers. Parents teaching their children are the faculty. Keep updated résumés of your faculty in your school records, including their names, addresses and qualifications. If the teacher does not have a credential, list other qualifications that make him or her capable of teaching. These qualifications could include experience teaching in your school, other work or volunteer experience, undergraduate and advanced degrees, educational conferences attended, including homeschool conferences, or training sessions.
Some homeschooling families hire others to help with certain aspects of their children's education, such as piano teachers or athletic coaches. Weekly piano lessons or even daily sports lessons do not qualify these teachers as your employees. However, if you are interested in hiring full- or part-time teachers, you can do so. Any employee hired to work with your children must provide you with sufficient information to determine that he or she is capable of teaching. Additionally, you must obtain the criminal record summary and TB certificate described below. "'Employment' means the act of engaging the services of a person, who will have contact with pupils, to work in a position at a private school at the elementary or high school level . . . on a regular, paid full-time basis, regular, paid part-time basis or paid full- or part-time seasonal basis." (EC §44237(b)(2).) Thus, the piano teacher or gymnastics instructor with his or her own studio, and a grandmother teaching her grandchildren without being paid, are not employees. However, anyone you hire and pay to teach within your home under your direction on a regular full- or part-time basis may be considered an employee. You may wish to consult with an attorney to clarify the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. Each situation is unique and can have important tax and record-keeping consequences.
Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.
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