As you register this year, don’t be alarmed by changes in the language of your registration letter; nothing has really changed.
Now that we’re past Independence Day celebrations, many families (including ours) are already turning our thoughts to the coming school year. (Sorry kids, it’s coming anyway.) My wife usually plans curriculum in May, and orders it in July. In fact, much of it showed up on our doorstep a couple of weeks ago.
Lots of parents around Louisiana are getting ready to register their homeschools under the option called “non-public not seeking state approval.” It’s the simplest and best way to register with the state unless your students are in high school. (Click here for more on our recommendations for high school.)
Thanks to a Homeschool Louisiana leader here in West Monroe, we’ve learned that the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) has changed the wording on the receipt letter you get after registering. There’s no reason to worry. We just want you to be aware of the change.
The 2018 letter made no mention of attendance laws:
Thank you for registering your nonpublic school, [Your Homeschool Name]. This letter officially verifies that the Louisiana Department of Education has received your registration as a nonpublic school not seeking state approval from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. This registration is valid for one year.
Students attending your nonpublic school are now in compliance with Louisiana’s compulsory attendance law (R.S. 17:232 (C) and (D)).
This registration is not an application for approval of a Home Study Program and does not make students attending your school eligible for Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarships. Applications and guidelines for the SBESE Approved Home Study Program may be found at https://www.louisianabelieves.com/schools/home-study.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact…
The 2019 letter is dramatically different. It reads:
Thank you for reporting the number of students attending [Your Homeschool Name], which you have reported as a non-public school not seeking state approval. This letter confirms receipt of the enrollment information you have submitted.
Please note that the receipt of this information does not serve as approval of a Home Study Program, does not make students eligible for Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarships, and does not serve as confirmation that students are meeting compulsory attendance laws. Your school will need to address any inquiries regarding compulsory attendance. [emphasis added]
What in the world? According to their wording, by registering last year, you were in compliance with attendance laws; but this year, you aren’t?
OK, now it’s time for that deep breath.
We reached out to our friend, La. Rep. Beryl Amadee (R-Houma), and asked for her insight on the issue of attendance laws.
Here’s what Rep. Amadee said:
Compulsory attendance law says a parent must enroll a child in a “day school.” A parent operating their home school according to the law as a private school, which law calls “non-approved non-public,” meets the definition of day school. No problem there.
But compulsory attendance law also requires attendance. So LDE believes that a parent may send in annual notice of enrollment and NOT actually be in compliance with the attendance part.
So they do not want anyone to make the mistake of assuming that by simply sending in an annual notice a parent is in full compliance. Attendance has to be proven by some other means—like maybe daily assignment pages.
Of course we don’t submit attendance records to the state. Private schools don’t either. When a truant officer wants to find out whether a certain student is actually attending school as required, they simply call the school and ask. And the law requires the school (or the home school parent) to respond.
Not to worry: no new laws
Just so you know, there’s nothing to worry about; it’s just a reminder that every homeschool should be prepared to respond to a truant officer and be able to prove that we’re meeting the legal requirement of 180 days a year of schooling.
So, we don’t have any evidence that the state is planning for truant officers to check up on us, but it would be wise for you to have a way to document the days you “do” school at your house.
(By the way, my kids laugh at the 180-day rule. They’ll argue that we school waaaay more than that; during summer we still do math every day — OK, make that almost every day — and we read like crazy all summer long.)
What we do know is that no new laws have been passed, no new statutes have been enacted, and that the registration process this year should otherwise go as planned.
Thanks for reading! Still have questions? Reach out to our experts in the Homeschool Louisiana Support Group on Facebook!
Working to Protect your Homeschool Freedoms,
Karla and Jay Curtis
Homeschool Louisiana Board