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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Congress to Outlaw Homeschooling?

Q: Is the U.S. Congress considering a bill to outlaw homeschooling in the U.S.?

A: No.


We checked THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress’ database of legislative information, as well as recent news reports. We did not find a single bill before the U.S. Congress that would outlaw homeschooling nationwide. But, to make sure, we called the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy group in favor of homeschooling, and asked its deputy director of federal relations, Jeremiah Lorrig, if he knew of any such bills. He told FactCheck.org that he didn’t and that "at this point we’re not too concerned [about it] as a threat." Lorrig noted that most of the bills spotlighted by the HSLDA would affect various aspects of homeschooling but none before Congress would make the practice illegal.

However HSLDA did confront a direct threat to homeschooling in 1994. Back then, H.R. 6 – a bill to extend the authorization of and funding for the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act – was on its way toward passage in the U.S. House. The bill included language that would have required states to show that all full-time teachers (which was widely interpreted to include homeschooling instructors) met state certification requirements in order for the state to receive money from a professional development grant. But an amendment was introduced by Rep. David Ford (D-Mich.) that called for the language to be removed from the bill. All but one representative agreed with Ford and voted for the amendment.

What About California?

Some readers may have seen reports of a recent appellate court decision in California and claims that the decision has effectively outlawed homeschooling in the state. While the decision has been interpreted to mean that homeschooling by any non-credentialed parent is illegal in California, the California superintendent of public instruction has said parents could continue to homeschool their children, according to his statements he made regarding the issue. Also, the decision may be subject to change when the case is reheard this summer.

The case centered on a custody battle involving parents who homeschooled their eight children. The oldest child alleged their father physically and emotionally mistreated them, which prompted the custody hearing. The appellate court ruled that the lower court, barring any legal reason not to do so, must order the parents to enroll their children in a public or private full-time day school (or other school with equivalent certifications) and not have the children educated by a private tutor at their home. The decision reads:

California 2nd District Appellate Court: It is clear to [the court] that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught, or (3) one of the other few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance … applies to the child. 

On March 25, the appellate court granted a rehearing of the case, which is scheduled to take place in June.

– Emi Kolawole


Homeschooling in the United States: 2003. 0 Feb. 2006. National Center for Education Statistics. 1 Apr. 2008. 

U.S. House Roll Call Vote. 24 Feb. 1994.

Mehta, Seema. No ban on home schooling. 12 Mar. 2008. The Los Angeles Times. 1 Apr. 2008.

Egelko, Bob. California homsechooling case to be reheard. 27 Mar. 2008. The San Francisco Chronicle. 1 Apr. 2008.