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Current New York State Government Issues



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This page was last updated on March 11, 2015.

A number of issues which affect home education are regularly discussed in New York State government. In the discussion below, we provide links to the New York State Assembly Legislative Information System which you can use to check on the current status and wording of various legislative bills. You can also use the New York State Legislative Session Information System to get the same information, as well as legislative calendar information such as committee agendas.

NYHEN runs a discussion list, NY-alert@YahooGroups.com, where we talk about issues involving state government. You are welcome to join the list from the page at the previous link, or by sending a blank message to NY-alert-subscribe@YahooGroups.com.


Compulsory school attendance age

Currently, children in New York State are required to attend instruction, be it in a school or at home, from age 6 until age 16. This is the age range within which home educators must submit paperwork and assessments to their school districts. Also, state law allows school districts to raise the upper age limit from 16 to 17 for the students in their district. Only the New York City, Buffalo, and Brockport districts are known to have raised their age to 17.

Assembly bill A3600 would relax the lower end of compulsory attendance age. Currently, the cutoff for the start of compulsory age is December 1; children who turn 6 on or before December 1 are of compulsory age as of the start of school in the previous September. In other words, the youngest children of compulsory age are a few months short of turning 6. This bill would move the cutoff back to September 1, meaning that no children under 6 would be of compulsory age.

Assembly bill A4822 and Senate bill S2070 would require people under 18 to "maintain good school attendance" in order to be eligible for a driver's license or learner's permit. The Senate bill also requires "satisfactory school grades". The bills state that such people must either have a high school diploma (or equivalent), or be enrolled in an educational program leading to such a diploma and have a certificate of good attendance (and good grades, in the case of the Senate bill). This appears to imply that homeschoolers under 18 would not be legally eligible for a driver's license or learner's permit. Perhaps a parent-issued "certificate of good attendance" would be considered acceptable, but homeschooling in New York State does not lead to a high school diploma, as required by these bills. They represent a potential threat to homeschoolers' freedom.


Compulsory attendance: It's not just for kids anymore

Some legislators are attempting to force not only children, but also their parents, to go to school. Senate Bill S182 would require all parents to attend four parenting classes before their child reaches 7th grade. If the parents did not complete the classes, the bill would penalize the child by prohibiting advancement to 7th grade. The bill's wording covers all families in New York, with no exceptions for children who are not in public or private schools.


Tax exemptions for educational expenses

Senate bill S1976 would create an income tax credit of up to $200 for parents who pay for "approved" instructional materials for "home-based educational programs".

Some home educators support this kind of legislation because it makes home education more financially viable. Other home educators oppose this kind of legislation, saying that it could lead to increased regulation of home education because the government would view us as recipients of a tax break and would thus want to exercise tighter control over us in the name of accountability.


College admission and access to college degrees

New York State regulations prohibit colleges within the state from granting a degree to a student unless that student has a state-recognized high school diploma or has met a substitute requirement. The approved substitutes include obtaining a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma (either via the TASC exam or via a 24-credit-hour college program) or obtaining a letter from the student's school district superintendent stating that the student has received the substantial equivalent of a high school education. Because New York homeschoolers do not receive state-recognized high school diplomas, they must meet one of the substitute requirements.

Assembly and Senate bill A43/S841 would prohibit the State Education Department from requiring homeschoolers to have a recognized diploma in most cases. However, it contains dangerous provisions. For example, it would require homeschoolers seeking college admission to submit a notarized transcript "which demonstrates completion of a high school education", meaning that homeschoolers could not skip ahead to college before finishing a high school program.


Participation in sports and other extracurricular activities

Currently, New York State does not allow homeschoolers to play on public school interscholastic sports teams. As for other extracurricular activities such as intramural sports and musical groups, the state allows local school boards to decide whether to allow homeschoolers to participate. Some districts allow such participation, and others don't. There are several bills intended to make extracurricular activities more available to home educated children.

Assembly bill A3678 would require districts to allow homeschoolers to participate in interscholastic sports.

Senate bill S2175 would do the same as A3678, but it would also require homeschoolers to satisfy special requirements each year: They would have to satisfy either the homeschooling regulation's standardized testing requirement or, if the district agreed, a set of alternative requirements adopted by the district, including a portfolio of work.

Assembly bill A4062 would require districts to allow homeschoolers to participate in interscholastic sports and in driver's education classes.

Assembly bill A1500 would require districts to allow homeschoolers to participate in all extracurricular activities.

New York home educators are divided on this issue. Supporters of these kinds of bills say that they would increase opportunities for homeschoolers. Opponents say that this approach could easily lead to increased regulation of homeschoolers, because it would explicitly identify us as eligible recipients of government school services. The opponents believe that the government would want to exercise tighter control over us as recipients of government services, in the name of accountability. This tendency is seen in S2175's requirements, which would add to the current requirements in the homeschooling regulation.