Learning outside the lines: Home schooling in Kansas

Scott Woodruff explains Kansas home school laws

May 13, 2007


See more in our home schooling series
Learning outside the lines

Home schooling law in Kansas has largely been forged in the arena of battle between parents who demand recognition of their right to provide home-based education and the education establishment which wants to wipe it out.

In this see-saw battle, the education establishment had the early victories. In State v. Lowry (1963), State v. Garber (1966) and In Re Sawyer (1983), Kansas appellate courts ruled against families who wanted to educate their children in their homes. However, the Kansas Attorney General issued an opinion in 1985 suggesting that the In Re Sawyer case actually permits home schooling - but not under the exact circumstances presented in that case.

Since that time, home school families have won every court battle (at least five, probably more) over whether home schooling is legal. As a result, most state officials have come to accept the right of families to educate their own children.

On the other hand, none of the home school victories after 1983 were appealed. Because of this, the favorable decisions were not widely published. When people research Kansas home school law, they easily find the early court victories for the school establishment. It is harder to locate the many court victories after 1983 for the home school families.

During the early court battles, a picture slowly emerged of what the courts want to see in a home school program.

First, they don't want it to be called "home schooling" at all. They want it to be referred to as a "nonaccredited private school." (There are several states that treat a home school as a private school - Indiana, Illinois, Texas, California, etc.) In fact, if you tell certain officials you "home school," they will send the posse out after you. But if you tell them you operate a nonaccredited private school in your home for your own children, you'll get along just fine! If you think this is legal nit-picking, you're right.

From the first point, it follows that families who home school their children must obey the laws that apply to nonaccredited private schools. This means they must register with the Kansas State School Board, a relatively simple process, but very important. They must provide instruction for about the same number of days as public schools.

Second, the teacher must be competent. Local school boards, however, have no authority to pass judgment on the competence of private school teachers. This would be up to the judge, if the issue ever got that far. And since the average eighth grade home-schooler scores higher than the average 12th grader nationwide (!) on standardized tests (per Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, University of Maryland), it's fair to say competence will seldom be an issue.

Third, there must be some level of planning and scheduling. Details of this have not been fleshed out, but judges have had no difficulty applying this in real life cases.

Finally, there must be some assessing of the student's progress. Some families keep copies of their regular tests. Others administer standardized tests annually. Either way should be acceptable.

School boards have no right to demand proof of planning, scheduling and testing (thankfully, this helps keep red tape to a minimum), but families should be prepared to establish these in the unlikely event they are hauled into court.

Hot pockets of stubborn opposition to home schooling occasionally arise in Kansas, but the forecast for the future is excellent. There is nothing like individual ownership to improve the way something is cared for, and home school families take full ownership of their children's education.


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