Legal Options

Thinking about homeschooling because of SB277?

SB 277 eliminated the vaccine exemption for children who attend public and private schools.  An independent study homeschooling exemption was written for children who are not receiving classroom-based instruction.

The independent study exemption gives parents three educational options to consider if their child is not fully immunized as required by the new law and their child did not have a personal beliefs exemption filed prior to January 1, 2016 (see code for grade span limitations).  Those options are to:

  1. File a Private School Affidavit (PSA) and teach your own child at home. 
  2. Enroll in a PSP and teach your own child at home.
  3. Enroll in a public ISP or Charter that does not require classroom-based instruction and teach your child at home.

In  California , children six and over must be enrolled in a legal school.  If you wish to homeschool with a vaccine exemption, your legal options remain the ones above, with your child being taught at home with the family, not a group of unrelated children. If you hear of a drop-off program or all day center, or one that charges tuition but says their vaccine free program is not really a school, you may be right to question it and be concerned if it is in compliance with  California ‘s compulsory education and vaccine laws.  Contact CHN.  We’re here to help!

California has a compulsory education law, so you should decide one of the legal options before your local school starts (usually in August or September).  That might also involve withdrawing your child from a school if he/she was previously enrolled there. There is never a final decision for homeschooling or enrolling in a school.  Changes can be made during the school year in order to best meet the needs of the child.  Therefore, October 15th isn’t your deadline if your child is enrolled in another school.  If you decide to homeschool independently later in the year, you can file then.

Homeschooling families have four legal options to homeschool:gavel

  1. Establishing your own home-based private school,
  2. Enrolling in a private school that offers independent study (PSP)
  3. Using a public school independent study program (ISP) or charter school that caters to homeschoolers, or
  4. If you have a credential, using the tutorial option.

CHN does not recommend one option over another.  There are positives and negatives to each option and you should consider the needs of your family while evaluating the choices.

Option 1: Private School Affidavit (PSA)

When you file the Private School Affidavit, you withdraw your children from school and request their school records. As the administrator/teacher, you must keep the required records, but the record-keeping requirements are not burdensome. When you file an affidavit, your school name and address are a matter of public record. You will be responsible for answering inquiries regarding your school. If you would like the companionship of other homeschoolers, identify and join a homeschooling support group.

Although the state mandates that certain subjects such as reading, social studies, math, and science be “taught,” when you file the Private School Affidavit, you have freedom in deciding what specific topics are covered and how and when to cover them. If your elementary-school-aged child wants to learn a topic normally covered in high school, he or she can do it!

Things to consider about this option:

  • Great scope of independence and freedom to share your child’s education.
  • Financial outlays are controlled by you.
  • You bear responsibility to adhere to all private school laws and maintain records. Click here for a guide to record keeping.
  • Support systems must be sought out or created. CHN helps by maintaining a list of support groups and local contacts.

For more information on the mechanics of establishing your private school with the Private School Affidavit, please click here.

The filing date is set by California Educational Code §33190, and it’s for all private schools. Years ago, homeschoolers researched the ed code and discovered that this law that was written for traditional private schools could also be used by parents who wanted to be in compliance with the law while homeschooling.  Most schools (including many homeschools) start in August or September.  It’s thought that the logic of October filing is that by then most kids will be settled for the school year and that gives the State better statistical information. The October filing date is for existing private schools, and is a notification for that school year.  If a private school is established later in the year, the PSA can be filed then.  If your home based private school is established during the summer months, get the required paperwork in order  and pick a date to begin homeschooling, but wait until October 1-15 to file the affidavit. To find out what paperwork is required, please see the Keeping Private School Records page.

Correspondence Schools

This is a variant of Option 1, except that one has purchased a correspondence curriculum. The child must be enrolled in a private school which files the Private School Affidavit in California. If the private school, whose curriculum you decide to purchase, does not file the Private School Affidavit, you must take care of the legal requirements on your own by filing a PSA or enrolling in a PSP.

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Option 2: Private School Satellite Program (PSP)

A PSP is a private school which has filed an affidavit. When you sign up, you become a teacher in that school. Your name and address do not appear on the affidavit, but the PSP is required to keep a listing of each teacher and his/her qualifications. The administrator will remind you to turn in the required attendance records and course of study. Some PSPs offer a newsletter and activities like park days and field trips for their members. Some PSPs offer curriculum packages; guidance and requirements vary with each school. Some PSPs are listed here on Ann Zeise’s website, A2Z Home’s Cool.

Things to consider about this option:

  • Administrative matters as required by state law for private schools are handled by the private school.
  • Support systems are offered to varying degrees, depending on the school.
  • Compare services and prices, and also ask how long the school has been in existence, and how long the school owner has been homeschooling. Ask for references.
  • The parent pays for all books and learning materials.
  • Tuition fees vary widely.
  • Curriculum guidelines, administrative supervision, and/or record-keeping vary depending on the school.

Option 3: Public School Independent Study Programs (ISPs) or Public Charter Schools

If you register with a public school ISP or Charter School, your child is still in public school. You are considered a teacher’s aide and will be assigned a credentialed teacher to oversee your program. You will need to keep the records required by the program in which you enroll. The amount of freedom you have in choosing what to study depends on the program’s policies and your assigned teacher.

In general, the curriculum options for a public school ISP are much more limited as compared to those for a public Charter School.  Parents who choose either of these options frequently do so because of the economic advantage of having the state pay for curriculum, supplies, and classes outside of the home.  Sometimes parents choose this option because they are planning to homeschool for only a year or two, or are planning to homeschool only one of their children while keeping the others registered in public school. Some homeschooling families find that these options work well for Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, but become increasingly difficult for both the parent and student in high school.

Things to consider about this option:

  • Non-consumable materials are available on loan.
  • Most public Charter Schools offer a “budget” for a wide variety of curricula as well as extra-curricular classes such as music or dance lessons, Tai Kwon Do etc.
  • Some ISPs will offer opportunities to take selected classes or after school sports at the local public schools.
  • Support systems are offered to varying degrees, depending on the school.
  • Parents are asked to sign a contract agreeing that they will allow their child to be tested. If a parent does opt-out of testing, the student may not be allowed to re-enroll the following year.
  • The requirements of ISPs and Charter Schools are subject to the dictates of state and local authorities.
  • There are moderate to heavy restrictions through compliance with curriculum guidelines, administrative supervision, and/or record-keeping, depending on the school.
  • Public programs may not offer religious materials and any religious instruction must be after the recorded school hours [see here].

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Option 4: Credentialed Teacher/Tutor

A parent with a valid California teacher’s credential may teach his/her child under the private tutorial exemption. The parent can use this option only for the grades their credential covers. Parents may also hire a credentialed tutor for their child. Instruction must be for at least three hours a day for 175 days each year, between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.

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