Education Requirements in Pennsylvania
As a very basic reminder, Pennsylvania has compulsory education laws which require children between the ages of 8 and 17 to be enrolled in school.1 So, if your home school child isn’t between those ages, you have no reporting requirement whatsoever. If your child or children are between those ages, your home school district can only require the following:
“A notarized affidavit of the parent or guardian or other person having legal custody of the child or children, filed prior to the commencement of the home education program and annually thereafter on August 1 with the superintendent of the school district of residence and which sets forth: the name of the supervisor of the home education program who shall be responsible for the provision of instruction; the name and age of each child who shall participate in the home education program; the address and telephone number of the home education program site; that such subjects as required by law are offered in the English language, including an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area; evidence that the child has been immunized in accordance with the provisions of section 1303(a) and has received the health and medical services required for students of the child’s age or grade level in Article XIV; and that the home education program shall comply with the provisions of this section and that the notarized affidavit shall be satisfactory evidence thereof…The affidavit shall contain a certification to be signed by the supervisor that the supervisor, all adults living in the home and persons having legal custody of a child or children in a home education program have not been convicted of the criminal offenses enumerated in subsection (e) of section 111 within five years immediately preceding the date of the affidavit.”2
School District Rights
A school district can certainly ask for more, but you are not required to provide it. Further, “The required outline of proposed education objectives shall not be utilized by the superintendent in determining if the home education program is out of compliance with this section and section 1327 [compulsory school attendance].”3
Required Time and Subjects
A home school program is to provide 180 days or 900 hours (for elementary) or 990 hours (for secondary) of instruction.4 At the elementary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.5
At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires.6
During the duration of the school year, “If the superintendent has a reasonable belief, at any time during the school year, that appropriate education may not be occurring in the home education program, he may submit a letter to the supervisor, by certified mail, return receipt requested, requiring that an evaluation be conducted…and that an evaluator’s certification stating that an appropriate education is occurring for the school year under review, be submitted to the district by the supervisor within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the certified letter. The certified letter shall include the basis for the superintendent’s reasonable belief.”7
Otherwise, the school district has ability to interfere with the home school education program throughout the school year.
While many home school to find a better curriculum, the school district is required to lend its “planned courses, textbooks and other curriculum materials appropriate to the student’s age and grade level” to the supervisor of the home school program upon request.8
A home school student is also entitled to participate in all school district extra-curricular activities including, “clubs, musical ensembles, athletics and theatrical productions.”9
On or before June 30 of each school year during which home school education was provided, you need to submit an evaluator’s certification that the education the child received was “appropriate.”
If you forget to submit this by June 30, the school district must send you a letter via certified mail, return receipt requested informing you of the lapse. You then have 10 days to submit the certification without penalty. After 10 days the school district must hold a hearing on whether the student’s education was appropriate.
Pennsylvania law still requires a portfolio, but only for review by the evaluator and hearing officer, if necessary.10 The school district cannot require you to submit the portfolio to them for review.
Know the Law
Increasingly, school districts are attempting to require more from home school parents than the law allows. I have provided citations to the home school law for each requirement, or lack of requirement, so that you can see the exact language of the law and provide it to the school district if necessary.
If you continue to have problems with your school district, the Home School Legal Defense Association can assist you, or locally in south central Pennsylvania the attorneys at Trinity Law are well versed in home school law issues.
If you have any questions regarding home school requirements, please contact us at 717-843-8046 or at Trinitylaw.com.