Home Education Options Under Michigan Law
In 1998 families for the first time were given a choice in how they were going to home educate. They could choose to teach their children at home as a home school, or they could choose to operate as a non-public school.
How can a family know which option they should choose? First of all, each family should know that they are not under any obligation to make a final decision immediately. Since no family is required to initiate reporting any information to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), they can wait until the Department actually requests information before deciding whether to claim exemption (3)(a) or (3)(f), or both.
Making this decision should be based on the needs and beliefs of each family, and which exemption they feel will provide them the greatest amount of freedom while meeting their needs. The information provided here should give you a better understanding of the options available and the regulations or obligations that are required with each option. Please remember, the information provided here is not to be taken as legal advice. If you have any questions about which option(s) your family should be home schooling under, seek competent legal advice from the Home School Legal Defense Association (540) 338-5600), if you are a member, or from your own attorney.
Michigan’s Compulsory School Attendance Law
This law states that “every parent, guardian, or other person in this state having control and charge of a child from the age of 6 to the child’s 16th birthday, shall send that child to the public schools during the entire school year” (MCL 380.1561, Section 1561). Thankfully, Michigan’s Compulsory School Attendance law also contains exemptions so that all children between the ages of 6 and 16 do NOT have to attend a public school.
MCL 380.1561, Section 1561(3) states “A child is not required to attend a public school in any of the following cases:
(a) The child is attending regularly and is being taught in a state approved non-public school, which teaches subjects comparable to those taught in the public schools to children of corresponding age and grade, as determined by the course of study for the public schools of the district within which the non-public school is located.
…(b), (c) and (d) are exemptions for students living extremely far from transportation to public school, and for those in attendance in confirmation or religious classes…
(e) The child has graduated from high school or has fulfilled all requirements for high school graduation.
(f) The child is being educated at the child’s home by his or her parent or legal guardian in an organized educational program in the subject areas of Reading, Spelling, Mathematics, Science, History, Civics, Literature, Writing and English Grammar.”
MCL 380.1561, Section 1561(4) goes on to state “Exemption from the requirement to attend the public school may exist under either subsection (3)(a) or (3)(f), or both, for a child being educated at the child’s home by his or her parent or legal guardian.”
Home Educating Under Exemption (3)(a) as a Non-Public School
If a family chooses to home school under exemption (3)(a) as a non-public school, they will be under the authority of the MDE. The MDE has authority over all non-public schools and home educators operating under exemption (3)(a) because the Non-Public School Act of 1921 gives them that authority. All non-public schools must comply with the requirements of the Act which includes the following:
388.551 Section 1. The superintendent of public instruction is hereby given supervision of all the private, denominational and parochial schools of this state in such matters and manner as is hereinafter provided… It is the intent of this act that the sanitary conditions of such schools, the courses of study therein, and the qualifications of the teachers thereof shall be of the same standard as provided by the general school laws of the state.
388.553 Section 3. No person shall teach or give instruction in any of the regular or elementary grade studies in any private, denominational or parochial school within this state who does not hold a certificate such as would qualify him or her to teach in like grades of the public schools of the state.
388.555 Section 5. The superintendent of public instruction by himself, his assistants, or any duly authorized agent, shall have authority at any time to investigate and examine into the conditions of any school operating under this act… and it shall be the duty of such school to admit such superintendent… or authorized agent, and to submit for examination its sanitary condition, the records of enrollment of pupils, its courses of studies… and the qualifications of its teachers.
What Must a Non-Public School Home School Do to Exist?
To begin a non-public school home school you simply begin home schooling. You do NOT have to ask permission, get a license or even a permit to get started.
You do NOT have to request a Non-Public School Membership Reporting Form (form SM4325).
You must be or use a certified teacher (or claim a religious exemption to this requirement).
You must teach curriculum comparable to that taught in your local school district according to your child’s age and grade.
You must provide information regarding “enrollment of pupils, courses of studies and the qualifications of teachers” if, and only if, the Superintendent of Public Instruction or one of his/her “authorized agents” requests this information from you. You may report this information on the SM4325 form, or you may simply submit to the MDE a letter providing the information required by law.
You must submit to investigations and/or examinations by the superintendent or his agent “at any time” at your “non-public school” (your home), unless you are willing to refuse this kind of intrusion into your home and are willing to have the operation of your school suspended, and/or be taken to court over the matter. Although no school official has attempted this type of harassment, anyone choosing this exemption should know that the possibility exists for this to happen.
Home Educating Under Exemption (3)(f) as a Home Education Program
Families choosing to home school under exemption (3)(f) are not required to do any type of reporting to any school official. If you are sent a SM4325 form, you do not have to return it or make any type of response. The MDE has stated that, “If the home school family has not registered, the Department will consider the home school family to be operating under the exemption (f) solely.” There is also no law requiring that any information be provided to the local or intermediate school district. Therefore, a home school existing under (3)(f) has no responsibility to provide any information to local school officials.
To begin a home education program you simply begin home schooling. You do NOT have to ask permission, get a license or even a permit. You do NOT have to request a Non-Public School Membership Reporting Form (form SM4325). You must provide your children instruction in the subject areas of Reading, Spelling, Mathematics, Science, History, Civics, Literature, Writing and English Grammar.”
The Michigan Department of Education’s Position on the Exemptions
The following statements have been taken from a Question & Answer document which the MDE provided to all of the Local and Intermediate School District Superintendents. It details how they have interpreted their role concerning the exemptions available to home educators.
“A home school family choosing to operate under exemption (a) solely, and complying with the requirements of the Non-Public School Act is considered a non-public school.”
“A home school family choosing to operate under both exemptions (a) and (f) must comply with the requirements of both (a) and (f).”
“A home school family choosing to operate under exemption (f) solely, is NOT a non-public school and NEED NOT comply with the requirements of the Non-Public School Act.”
“The MDE plays no role with this (the family choosing exemption (f) solely) home schooling family.”
“There are no minimum qualifications for the teachers (in an exemption (f) solely home school) except that they must be the parents or legal guardians of the children.”
“The (exemption (f) solely) home school family does not report to the MDE.”
“Question: How does a home school family operating under exemption (f) provide an organized educational program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing and English Grammar?
Answer: The state does not regulate the content of the basic courses.”
“Question: What public school services may students in home school families, operating under exemption (f) solely, access?
Answer: Students in these home school families are not entitled to Auxilary Services. Students in these home school families may enroll in noncore courses such as band, physical education, music or driver’s education in public schools.
The Role of Local and Intermediate School Districts
The MDE has stated that, “Intermediate and local school districts are responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Compulsory School Attendance Law.” The MDE does not bring truancy charges against anyone.
This “option” has always been left up to the local and intermediate school district officials. Therefore, if a local or intermediate school official discovers that you have school age children not in attendance at a public school, it would be his/her responsibility to find out whether or not your children were indeed truant. A local or intermediate school district cannot legally demand reporting from a family choosing to home school under exemption (f). However, those parents would be wise to submit a brief note informing the superintendent or truant officer that their children are not truant, but being taught at home under the requirements of exemption (3)(f). Other than making an inquiry to determine whether or not your children are truant, school officials are given no other role of enforcement over families home schooling under exemption (f).
Prayerfully consider under which exemption(s) you would like to home educate your children. Be prepared to explain (if necessary) under which option you are operating. Know what is and what is NOT required of your family according to which exemption(s) you choose.
May God bless your family as you learn together!