Please share this information with your support group and other homeschoolers you know.
• The Wisconsin school census statute requires local public school districts to report each year to the DPI the number of public and private school students, including homeschoolers, in their district. (See Wisconsin statute 120.18 Annual School District Report at http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm&d=stats&jd=120.18)
• Homeschoolers refusing to provide information for the report could trigger legislation that would require more information from homeschoolers. Also, responding in the way WPA suggests below is easy and does not give the state any more information than it already has.
• We are writing this now because a national homeschool organization has misinformed homeschoolers about the school census law and advised Wisconsin homeschoolers that they can refuse to provide information for the census.
What You Can Do
If your local public school district asks you for information for the school census, WPA suggests:
• Give them a copy of your PI-1206 form for current or most recent school year with a note attached that says:
Wisconsin’s homeschooling law only requires that parents submit children’s gender and grade level. Although the school census law requests numbers and ages, it is more important that homeschoolers obey the homeschooling law that was designed specifically for us. Therefore, homeschoolers as homeschoolers are not required to provide children’s names, ages, birthdates, social security numbers, ethnicity, etc.
• Do NOT give them any other information, such as your child’s name, age, birthdate, social security number, ethnicity, etc.
Background and Additional Information
Every summer, school districts are required to submit to the DPI a report that includes the number of all children of each age between the ages of 4 and 20. Some districts conduct a census to get this information, but many use enrollment figures from the third Friday of the previous September that they collected from public and private schools, including homeschoolers’ PI-1206 forms. Therefore, many homeschoolers are not contacted by school census takers.
However, some districts use the census as a way to try to get from homeschoolers more information than is required on the PI-1206 form or more than school officials are authorized or required by law to collect. As WPA has pointed out for many years, it is important for us homeschoolers to know what the law requires and what our rights are and refuse to exceed the minimum requirements of the law by giving any additional information.
It works very well for homeschoolers who are contacted by census takers to provide a copy of their PI-1206 form. This protects our privacy, does not require that we give the government any new information that it doesn’t already have, and meets the requirements of the law.
Unfortunately, recently a national homeschooling organization has been telling homeschoolers that they don’t need to respond to the school census. The organization wrote, “To protect confidential information about your family, you simply need to be aware of the fact that no state or federal law requires you to respond to the school census request at all. Alternatively, you can fulfill the objective of the law by telling only the number of children in your home and their ages.”
Although this organization is staffed by lawyers, this statement is incorrect. It undermines our homeschooling freedoms in at least three ways.
Second, refusing to respond to a school census request undermines Wisconsin’s homeschooling law. If school districts claim they cannot fulfill the statutory requirement that they submit a report because homeschoolers refuse to respond to the census, the DPI or one or more school districts could easily call for changes in the statute that make it more demanding, perhaps requiring that homeschoolers provide more information than is required on the PI-1206 form and also including penalties for not doing so. It’s very easy to respond to a census request without providing the government with any more information than it already has, so it would be unwise to refuse and risk triggering a more demanding law.
Third, following the national organization’s suggestion that homeschoolers give the census taker the ages of our children would actually provide MORE information to the state than is required on the PI-1206 form.