Dear WPA Members and Other Homeschoolers,
Please share this with other homeschoolers.
Wisconsin families continue to act wisely and courageously. WPA continues to give them important information and strong support and to work along with them. As a result, situations that could have weakened homeschooling have been turned around and instead have strengthened homeschooling. Here are a few recent examples.
In brief (details below):
Example 1: Homeschool diplomas are now being officially recognized and treated like other diplomas by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ).
Example 2: WPA educated Fox Valley Technical College about homeschool diplomas and convinced them to accept a homeschool diploma they had rejected. This allowed the student to receive a federal student loan that had been approved and then withheld by the college.
Example 3: A local school district with a long history of opposing homeschooling has just agreed not to charge homeschoolers with truancy when they are not enrolled in a conventional school and file their PI-1206 forms after the third Friday in September and before October 15th.
Background and additional information:
Example 1: The DOJ decided that homeschool diplomas did not meet the requirement for admission to the Police Academy at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). Two homeschool families whose students were applying stood behind their diplomas and refused to agree to the extra requirements the DOJ insisted homeschoolers had to meet, including passing the GED. For eight months the families and WPA worked together. WPA supported their decisions, gave them key information, prepared extensive documentation for the DOJ explaining why homeschool diplomas should be accepted, and talked with a number of DOJ officials. WPA finally convinced the Administrator of Law Enforcement Services at the DOJ to take the issue to the Law Enforcement Standards Board, which voted in favor of his motion to treat homeschoolers just as other private school students are treated. In addition, when the administrative code governing applicants to the Police Academy is revised, it will state that homeschool diplomas are to be treated just like any other diploma. Along with their diplomas, homeschoolers will need to provide a transcript and a copy of their PI-1206 form. These are reasonable requirements that homeschoolers in the past have agreed to.
In response, both families have written to WPA:"Thank you for your help in changing the administrative code through the Department of Justice. We are happy for those homeschoolers that will come behind [our son] in their aspirations to serve in the Wisconsin police force."
This is a major breakthrough. Homeschool diplomas have been accepted many times on a case by case basis, but this is one of the first official rulings in Wisconsin recognizing homeschool diplomas. It is a very important precedent that homeschoolers can use in the future in a wide variety of situations. It should make it easier for future homeschoolers to have their homeschool diplomas recognized and accepted. This would not have happened without both the determination of the families involved and WPA's long experience and persistent hard work for over eight months on the case. And if these families had taken the "easy way out" (passing the GED would not have been difficult for these students) and agreed to comply with the extra requirements the DOJ was putting on them but not on non-homeschooled students, a precedent would have been set that would encourage officials to demand more of homeschoolers.
Example 2: A homeschool graduate planning to attend Fox Valley Technical College had his application for a federal student loan approved and then blocked by the college's refusal to recognize his homeschool diploma without the DPI certifying it. WPA spoke with a financial aid officer and then with her supervisor and explained that federal regulations and the Federal Student Aid Handbook make it very clear that homeschool diplomas meet the requirement that students applying for a federal loan have a diploma. WPA forcefully insisted that the college accept the homeschooler's diploma within the day so the student could begin attending classes, and it did. As a result, a precedent was set that will be helpful to future loan applicants.
Example 3: In July, a family officially withdrew their child from public school so they could homeschool the child this fall. Although school officials were aware of this, when school started this fall, they threatened to fine the family $150 a day for truancy and told the family they needed to file their PI-1206 form immediately to prevent the fines. The family knew from WPA that they should wait to file the form until after the third Friday in September, so they refused to file it and contacted WPA. WPA confirmed and supported their decision. WPA had conversations with the school high school principal and the district superintendent. Within three days, WPA convinced the superintendent that the family was acting correctly and was in compliance with the law. The superintendent agreed not to charge either this family or other homeschoolers in this situation with truancy. This interaction among homeschoolers, WPA, and school officials should improve relations between homeschoolers and this school district and discourage other districts from attempting to charge homeschoolers in this situation with truancy.
Several important points:
• Although relations between homeschoolers and school officials have improved in general during the past 27 years, there are still districts that are ready and eager to charge homeschoolers with truancy. Because Wisconsin schools operate on the basis of local control, the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) can explain the law and advise school districts, but it cannot tell them what to do, so local districts have a lot of power.
• It's important that homeschoolers not file their forms earlier than required by law. When homeschoolers who are not enrolled in a public or conventional private school file their forms after the third Friday in September and by October 15th, it helps make it clear to school officials that homeschoolers are not using the form PI-1206 to enroll their children in a homeschool. Instead homeschoolers are using the form to REPORT the fact that their children are already enrolled in a homeschool. On the other hand, if homeschoolers whose children are not enrolled in a public or conventional private school file the form when school starts, they are doing more than the law requires and school officials may assume that the parents are using the form to enroll their children in a homeschool. This gives school officials more power and authority over homeschools than they are granted by the statutes. Since 1984, WPA has been encouraging homeschoolers to file their forms after the third Friday in September, which is the date that public schools and other private schools use.
• What one family does can affect us all. If this family had taken the "easy way out" and just filed their form when school started to avoid truancy charges, it would have set a precedent and encouraged school districts to demand that other homeschoolers do so in the future. This would have increased the power and authority of the districts.
The WPA Board thanks the families who have worked hard to make these successes possible. While working on these issues, the WPA staff has also answered many other questions and responded to many other requests for help covering a wide range of topics. The Board also thanks its members and people who make donations for providing the resources necessary to do this work. Please join WPA, renew your membership, encourage others to join, buy a handbook, and attend the next conference on May 4-5, 2012 at the Univestiy of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
Thank you,The WPA Board