askPauline's Homeschool Info askPauline's Guide to Homeschooling in PA

Due Process

 

Homeschoolers have a lot of choices available. Please take the information you find useful from these pages and ignore the rest.

Many people, including me, will give opinions on the PA homeschooling law.  I believe that everyone should read the law for themselves, read a few opinions about it, and decide for themselves what approach makes sense for their family.

The PA Home Education Law

I might be wrong! I am not a lawyer! Your circumstances may be different! This page, and others on this site, are not intended as legal advice. School districts vary considerably in their interpretation of the home education law. Please double-check legal information with appropriate sources. In particular, the PA Dept. of Ed. may be helpful.

Contact askPauline.

This web page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk.
Contents may be copied if credit is given.

What happens if the school district thinks I may not be giving my child an appropriate education?

Most home educators in PA have few serious problems with their school district. They turn in their paperwork, the district OKs it, and all is well. However, in a few cases, things do not go as smoothly. I believe it's important for all home educators to understand what the law says about the home educator's rights and responsibilities, as well as the school district's, in such situations. (Note that this page applies to the PA Home Education Law (24 PS 13-1327.1 Home education program). The law does not apply to students using an alternative to the home education law, such as private tutoring, public cyber-charter school, etc.)

Below I've shown the relevant parts of the law, in green text, with a few thoughts. However, it's best to read the Home Ed law for yourself, in context; there is a copy here.

"Appropriate education" is the standard for assessing a home education program.

"Appropriate education" shall mean a program consisting of
instruction in the required subjects
for the time required in this act and
in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program.

Note that there are three aspects to "appropriate education":

~ instruction "for the time required", described in the law as "a minimum of one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction or nine hundred (900) hours of instruction per year at the elementary level [grades 1-6], or nine hundred ninety (990) hours per year at the secondary level" [grades 7-12]. (More discussion of this here.)

~ "instruction in the required subjects", (They are described here.), and

~ "sustained progress in the overall program".

All of these are to some extent subjective, especially "progress'. Note that there is NO requirement to meet state educational standards. PA home educators create their own educational objectives for their students.

In order to demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring, you must maintain a portfolio and get an evaluation.

(e) In order to demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring, the supervisor of the home education program shall provide and maintain on file the following documentation for each student enrolled in the home education program:

(1) A portfolio of records and materials...

(2) An annual written evaluation of the student's educational progress...

The portfolio shall consist of

a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used,

samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student

and in grades three, five and eight results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels.

You must submit your portfolio and written evaluation to the school district at the end of the school year.

(h) Such documentation required by subsection (e)(1) and (2) [the portfolio and the written evaluation] shall be provided to the public school district of residence superintendent at the conclusion of each public school year.

The deadline is June 30 of each year.

If the superintendent has a reasonable belief that appropriate education may not be occurring, he may require that you submit your portfolio, written evaluation, and test results (in 3rd/5th/8th grades) to the district mid-year.

...if the superintendent has a reasonable belief that, at any time during the school year, appropriate education may not be occurring in the home education program, he may, by certified mail, return receipt requested, require

documentation pertaining to the portfolio of records and materials required by subsection (e)(1) [the portfolio] to be submitted to the district within fifteen (15) days;

and documentation pertaining to subsection (e)(2) [the evaluator's report] to be submitted to the district within thirty (30) days.

If the tests as required in subsection (e)(1) [the 3rd/5th/8th grade standardized testing] have not been administered at the time of the receipt of the certified letter by the supervisor, the supervisor shall submit the other required documentation and shall submit the test results with the documentation at the conclusion of the school year.

Note that it's rare to get a mid-year request for documentation.

The superintendent must return your documentation when he is finished reviewing it. He may keep copies.

(g) When documentation is required by this section to be submitted to the district of residence superintendent or the hearing examiner, the superintendent or the hearing examiner shall return, upon completion of his review, all such documentation to the supervisor of the home education program.

The superintendent or hearing examiner may photocopy all or portions of the documentation for his files.

If the superintendent determines that your portfolio and written evaluation do not demonstrate appropriate education, he can send a letter specifying what aspect of the documentation is inadequate and asking for additional documentation.
He must return all of the documentation (your portfolio and written evaluation).

(i) If the superintendent of the public school district determines, based on the documentation provided, at the end of or during the school year, that appropriate education is not taking place for the child in the home education program, the superintendent shall send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the supervisor of the home education program stating that in his opinion appropriate education is not taking place for the child in the home education program and shall return all documentation, specifying what aspect or aspects of the documentation are inadequate.

In that case, you have 20 days to submit additional documentation.

[j) Upon receipt of the certified letter required by subsection (i), the supervisor of the home education program shall have twenty (20) days to submit additional documentation demonstrating that appropriate education is taking place for the child in the home education program.

If you don't submit additional documentation within 20 days, your child must enroll in a school.

If documentation is not submitted within that time, the home education program for the child shall be out of compliance with the requirements of this section and section 1327, and the student shall be promptly enrolled in the public school district of residence or a nonpublic school or a licensed private academic school.

The best way to avoid this is to simply submit additional documentation of some kind within the 20 days. What exactly you submit will depend on what the superintendent has requested, how you feel about his request, and what kind of documentation you have available and/or are willing/able to generate.

If you submit additional documentation, and the superintendent feels the additional documentation still doesn't demonstrate appropriate education (days/hours, required subjects, and sustained progress in the overall program), there will be a hearing.

(k) If the superintendent determines that the additional documentation submitted still does not demonstrate that appropriate education is taking place in the home education program, he shall so notify the supervisor of the home education program by certified mail, return receipt requested,

and the board of school directors shall provide for a proper hearing by a duly qualified and impartial hearing examiner within thirty (30) days.

The school district hires the hearing examiner.

"Hearing examiner" shall not be an officer, employe or agent of the Department of Education or of the school district or intermediate unit of residence of the child in the home education program.

The hearing examiner has 15 days to make a decision.

The examiner shall render a decision within fifteen (15) days of the hearing...

The hearing examiner may require a remedial education plan; in this case you can continue to home educate your child.

...he may require the establishment of a remedial education plan mutually agreed to by the superintendent and supervisor of the home education program which shall continue the home education program.

If the hearing examiner rules against you, the child must be enrolled in a school.

(l) If the hearing examiner finds that the documentation does not indicate that appropriate education is taking place in the home education program, the home education program for the child shall be out of compliance with the requirements of this section and section 1327, and the student shall be promptly enrolled in the public school district of residence or a nonpublic school or a licensed private academic school.

This was written before public charter schools and public cyber-charter schools were established; I do not know whether they would be considered to bein "the public school district of residence".

You can appeal the decision; so can the superintendent.

The decision of the examiner may be appealed by either the supervisor of the home education program or the superintendent to the Secretary of Education or Commonwealth Court.

If, after this process, your child's home education program has been deemed "out of compliance", you (and your spouse) can't supervise a home ed program for that child for a year.

(m) At such time as the child's home education program has been determined to be out of compliance with the provisions of this section and section 1327, the supervisor or spouse of the supervisor of the home education program shall not be eligible to supervise a home education program for that child, as provided for in subsection (b)(1) of this section, for a period of twelve (12) months from the date of such determination.

The child will have to meet the complusory attendance law in another way. Options include public school, private school, private tutor, public cyber-charter school, etc. Many of these options are discussed here.

In addition, reading the law, there does seem to be room for the child to be enrolled in a home education program with a supervisor other than the previous supervisor or their spouse. If the child has another parent or guardian in the picture, that possibility could be explored.