Florida homeschoolers group: New law limits information requests

A statewide homeschooling group is informing school districts that a new law bars them from creating new roadblocks or information requests for would-be homeschoolers.

Florida law requires homeschoolers to register with their local school districts. Parents must send a signed notice of intent to the district superintendent with the students’ names, birthdates and addresses. But House Bill 731, recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott, bars districts from requiring other information.

In the letter to superintendents, the Florida Parent Educators Association cites the new statute, explaining that once a parent contacts the district about beginning a home education program, the district “shall accept the notice and immediately register the home education program upon receipt of notice.”

The law does not require parents to provide proof of residency or a birth certificate. However, the Miami-Dade School Board adopted a policy requiring parents to provide those documents. And parents have complained of similar practices in other counties, including Broward, Hillsborough and St. Lucie. This has prompted some families in those districts to use other methods, like non-traditional private schools, to teach their children at home.

The text of the letter, distributed to supporters by email, is below:

Re: New Law-Home Education Programs and Registration

To Whom It May Concern:

The Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) is the statewide homeschool organization that has been serving Florida homeschooling families for over thirty years. The FPEA’s mission is to support, encourage, and equip homeschooling families in addition to protecting homeschooling freedoms in Florida.

On March 30, 2018, Governor Scott signed House Bill 731 into law thereby clarifying rules and requirements for homeschooling in the State of Florida. House Bill 731 makes some key changes to Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002 and 1003. Based upon the passage of House Bill 731, the FPEA would like to take this opportunity to clarify the requirements for Florida families to register as a home education program. This letter will also provide guidance as to what information individual school districts may request from parents wishing to homeschool their children.

House Bill 731 makes pertinent changes to multiple sections of the Florida Statutes and provides as follows:

1. Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002.41(1) states that “A home education program is not a school district program and is registered with the district school superintendent only for the purpose of complying with the state’s attendance requirements” (emphasis added);

2. Also, in accordance with Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002.41(1)(a), the parent must provide notice in writing the full legal names, addresses and birthdates of all children who shall be enrolled as students in a home education program. As provided in Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002.41(1)(b), upon receipt of the aforementioned notice, “the district school superintendent shall accept the notice and immediately register the home education program upon receipt of the notice. The district may not require any additional information or verification from the parent unless the student chooses to participate in a school district program or service.” Furthermore, “the district school superintendent may not assign a grade level to the home education student or include a social security number or any other personal information of the student in any school district or state database unless the student chooses to participate in a school district program or service” (emphasis added). The district school superintendent may assign the appropriate grade level after consultation with the home education student’s parents should the student desire to participate in Bright Futures.

3. In addition, statutory changes provide the specific language in Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002.41(13) that, “A school district may not further regulate, exercise control over, or require documentation from parents of home education program students beyond the requirements of this section unless the regulation, control, or documentation is necessary for participation in a school district program.”

In an effort reduce confusion and difficulties in the process of parents registering a home education program as provided for in Florida Statutes, Chapter 1002.41, we respectfully request that your district take the appropriate steps to ensure that your staff is properly educated on Florida Statute, Chapter 1002.41 and statutory compliant homeschool policies in your district.

For your convenience, we have created the following forms: Intent to Establish a Home Education Program and a Home Education Annual Evaluation. These can be found at https://fpea.com/homeschooling/free-resources

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration regarding this important matter regarding compliance with the statutory changes provided for in House Bill 731. Please feel free to contact FPEA office@fpea.com or 321-872-6600 should you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter in further detail.

Respectfully Submitted,

Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA)
Board of Directors

Suzanne Nunn, Chairman
Larry Wang, Esq.
Tracy Pons

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