Report by HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black
With the signature of Governor Nathan Deal on House Bill 39 on May 1, 2012, Georgia enacted significant improvements to its homeschool law. Effective with the 2012–2013 school year, parents will no longer have to submit monthly attendance records to their local public school superintendent. Instead, the records will be submitted only once a year to the Georgia Department of Education. Additionally, the initial and annual declaration of intent to conduct a home study program will be filed with the department of education instead of the local superintendent.
Submission of monthly attendance records has always been a thorn in the flesh of homeschoolers in Georgia. Problems with parents missing the end-of-month deadline by a few days or misplaced records by school officials often led to inappropriate action by the school district. School districts routinely reported families to social services for educational neglect or threatened truancy charges against family members. They also initiated action to bring about the revocation of the driver’s license of students by reporting excessive absences to the department of driver services. Annual reporting at the end of the school year should bring an end to these excessive and unwarranted enforcement actions.
Filing the declaration of intent with the department of education removes the local school district from the administrative process of beginning and continuing a home study program. HSLDA's experience has been that the less involvement homeschoolers have with the local school district, the fewer legal problems they have.
MORE ABOUT THE CHANGE TO THE HOMESCHOOL LAW
The State Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, and GHEA are very much in favor of this change to the home school law. It will take the local superintendents out of the loop when filing the homeschool forms. This will alleviate the problem we have, especially at the beginning of each new school year, when some superintendents expand the forms and expect homeschoolers to report information that is not required by law. It will also help to stop the dissemination of incorrect information about homeschooling and complying with the home school law that some personnel in local school board offices give to new and veteran homeschoolers. We are hopeful that any questions that any homeschooler has will be directed to GHEA or a local support group by the Department of Education.
The Department of Education reporting website and the form to implement the new reporting law is supposed to be available by August 1, 2012.
GHEA has not seen the new form, but we have been told that the Letter of Intent and the Attendance will be reported on one form, once per year, electronically. For those homeschoolers who do not have access to the internet, the form may be submitted by mail.
We have also been assured that the official "letter" that is required for a driver's license, work permit or for any other reason will be available from the Department of Education. We actually recommend that when your student graduates that you request an official letter stating that you have been in compliance with the Georgia homeschool law for the duration of the student's school career, especially the high school years.
We will keep you updated about this new law as we get information.
Please be in prayer for GHEA and for the homeschoolers in Georgia. We will continue to work to make the good homeschool law that we have in Georgia even better.
We are dedicated to support and encourage families who choose to educate their children using home based, parent directed, privately funded programs and stand ready to fight to preserve their freedoms to do so as provided by law.