Compulsory Attendance Laws
Florida has what are called compulsory attendance laws, which mandate the ages at which children may start or stop school, the number of days and hours children have to be in attendance at a school, and other related things. If you’re interested in reading the law directly, you can review the Florida Constitution and the Statutes relating to compulsory attendance. Title XLVIII of the Florida Statutes is where all education-related items can be found. The Florida Online Sunshine site allows you access to all of the above and provides a way to search for new bills and obtain other information. There are even Kids Pages, which is a great way to involve your child.
According to the Florida statutes, compulsory attendance laws apply to all children between the ages of 6 and 16. What this means is that your child must be enrolled in one of the following:
- Public school
- Parochial school
- Private school
- A home education program
- A private tutor program
Your Choices Under Florida’s Laws
Florida statutes provide three options for families who wish to educate their children at home. Each will meet the state’s compulsory attendance laws. Families may:
1. Enroll in a non campus-based private school, sometimes known as an Umbrella or Cover school, and follow the procedures set by the school;
2. Establish a home education program as defined in the statutes by sending a Notice of Intent to the local school superintendent, maintaining a log of activities and portfolio of work, and filing an annual evaluation using one of five evaluation choices.
3. Establish a Private Tutoring Program. The laws around this option are very vague and, if you choose to go this route, be sure to select a tutor who has experience in setting up a legally viable program for you.
While any of the above choices will provide compliance with Florida’s compulsory attendance laws, each has different implications for you.. While some of these differences go to issues of recordkeeping and methods, the heart of the distinction is whether you want to be accountable to the state or to a private entity.
Should you register with the superintendent or enroll in an Umbrella school?
Most families choose either an Umbrella school or to register with the school district. Regardless which method you choose, you can educate your children at home, using the materials and methods you select. The key difference between enrolling in a private school and registering as a home educator is this:
- Umbrella school students are overseen by administrators you select. Identifying data about the student and samples of the student’s work are never shared with anyone outside of the private school (other than at your request).
- Home education students are overseen by government employees at the school district. Parents must file annual evaluations with the district and can be required to show their record-keeping and samples of the student’s work upon demand by the Superintendent.