After 18 months of discussions with the Maine Department of Education, we are finally seeing some results. On November 3, 2020, the DOE rescinded its demand for certain information that the law does not require homeschool families to include in letters of intent to homeschool. Commissioner Makin sent out a statewide bulletin formally retracting the demand for a child's birth date.
Unlawful details and added requests on letters of intent may seem insignificant at first, but there is much more at stake. Preserving homeschool freedoms requires vigilance. We must never fall prey to a pattern of continuous revisions beyond the law, whenever the state sees fit.
Currently, Maine is a state with a moderate level of homeschool regulation. Many states are less regulated (or even not regulated). Maine could easily move into the category of high regulation (as most states in the Northeast) if we are not extremely careful. The blessings of our precious homeschool freedoms here in Maine will gradually be lost over time if we give in little by little.
Read Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) messages to members below, and remember to stand firm when necessary! Please contact HOME if you have questions, concerns, or need to report a school district that is insisting on use of the DOE forms or has refused your lawful form or letter.
News and Reports from Attorneys Scott Woodruff and Michael Donnelly
November 3, 2020
October 19, 2020
You can make a difference! Please send a letter to your school superintendent immediately to help right the wrongs inflicted on so many Maine homeschool families over the past 18+ months. Read Send Letter to Your Superintendent Immediately to find out exactly what you can do.
October 15, 2020
Will there be a knock on your door from an official? That's not very likely. However, it's good to be prepared in the event that you do experience contact with officials. Read We're Here to Help if There's a Knock on the Door to find out what you as a homeschool parent can do to be prepared.
September 24, 2020
Is a specific school year required for Maine homeschoolers? The answer is no. There is no required school year mentioned in Maine's homeschool statute. Read 175 Days and Counting for the latest on the issue of a designated "school year" for homeschoolers.
June 18, 2020
Can You Accept the Filing Waiver in Good Conscience? Find out why you can safely file only with your local district and forgo filing with the DOE.
Read more about the DOE's filing waiver in the June 3 article below.
June 3, 2020
The Maine Department of Education has waived the requirement that families file their homeschool paperwork with the state. The waiver is explained in the third paragraph here and here. This will save families some paperwork headaches every year, and we welcome the change.
But I need to add a bit of explanation!
Strictly speaking, the department has waived the requirement that families file in two places—with both the state and with the local superintendent—which is what the Maine homeschool statutes require. Since the department is an agency of the state, it has authority to waive the filing that is due the state.
On the other hand, I know of no legislative enactment that empowers the department to speak for your local superintendent. It is not clear to me, therefore, that the department has authority to waive the filing that is owed to local superintendents. I could imagine a scenario, however unlikely, where a family might get tripped up if they filed only with the department and a local official subsequently became aggressive.
In the interest of caution, I therefore believe the best approach is to understand the department’s statements as meaning that families no longer need to file with the state, but the requirement to file with the local superintendent remains the same.
You can feel confident relying on this waiver. Naturally, you can continue to file in both places if you prefer.
If you file only with your local superintendent, he or she will routinely forward the information to the department. By the same token, if you file only with the department, they will routinely forward the information to your local superintendent. In either event, all relevant parties will have access to your information. The department is saying that since sharing takes place like this, it is simply not necessary to file in both places.
This waiver applies both to the initial homeschool notice and the subsequent-year letter with the accompanying year-end evaluation (due by September 1). If you file only with your local superintendent, put a statement to that effect on your paperwork so everyone will be on the same page.
The waiver applies whether or not the materials you file include your child’s birth date or identify a school year. What you put in your file materials is a totally separate issue. For background on that issue, read here and the links in that article.
There has been no change to the homeschool statutes. This waiver will remain in effect unless and until the department rescinds it.
Our thanks go to the Department of Education for this helpful waiver.
April 29, 2020
The Maine Department of Education sent a letter (see attached) to many families last week repeating many of the totally off-base things they have been saying for the last 12 months—and adding a few new bloopers. First I want to salute the many Maine families who faithfully comply with the law even while department officials do not respect their own lawful boundaries.
I won't restate my responses to the old nonsense the department put in last week's letter (see the articles above for that). I will respond only to the new nonsense.
The letter says, "these items [birth date and school year] are now officially part of the home instruction requirements."
Really? Who made those requirements "official?" The department has exactly zero authority to change home instruction requirements. It is inexcusable to make such a statement to the public. The legislature has not changed the requirements.
The letter implies that the department has the power to "recognize the attendance status" of a child, and then threatens to withhold it from families who do not comply.
Here's the problem: the department has NO power to "recognize" the status of a home instruction student! A threat to not do something it has no power to do in the first place strikes me as ridiculous.
The department's next empty threat is that it will not give information about your homeschool program to CPS agencies, post-secondary education agencies, or career agencies if you don't comply.
Here's the problem: it's against the law for the department to give any information to anyone about your homeschool program except in very narrow exceptional circumstances!
The department's last empty threat is that it will not give others confirmation or verification of your program if you do not comply.
Here's the problem: even if it were not against the law (as mentioned above), the Department has no authority to "confirm" or "verify" anyone's homeschool program!
Here is what the Maine Legislature wants to happen. Under Maine statute 20-A ₴5001-A.3.A(4)(c), you are required to keep copies of everything you file annually. On the other hand, neither the department nor your local school unit are required to keep any of your records. The primary job of keeping homeschool records is yours.
In addition, it is very important that you keep some kind of record that proves you filed what you were supposed to file. Officials have been known to lose records. Sometimes official records get hacked and destroyed. Sometimes officials refuse to give copies of records even when a lawful request has been submitted. It is not wise to rely on a state or local official. Keeping your records is truly your job. And that is how the Maine Legislature designed the statutes.
Homeschooling is a declaration of independence from public school authorities. You must also be independent in keeping your own records.
Here's a summary of advice given by Attorney Scott Woodruff in the past year regarding the state's forms.
June 14, 2019
I urge Maine families to NOT use the state's forms either for their initial homeschool paperwork or their subsequent year letter and assessment submission. [The request to submit duplicate information in the subsequent year letter is redundant.]
Here are some myths, questions, and misunderstandings that are being circulated:
"The laws have changed, so now you need to use this form."
—Not true! No law has changed in this regard. As has been true for decades, you are not required to use any form at all—much less a form devised by the state Department of Education. HSLDA provides lawful forms to our members [as does HOME].
"I will use the state's form because I want to submit to the authorities as Romans 13 commands."
—Romans 13:7 says, "give everyone what you owe him." It does not say give everyone what they ASK for! Yes, give the authority what you owe them. What you owe them is determined by the laws that are enacted by the legislature. Bureaucrats have no authority to create a law by speaking it. While every parent should do what they believe is right, there is no scriptural mandate to submit to what an official says if it is out of line with the law of the land.
"The homeschool notification process is being updated."
—Let me translate this. First, no law has changed. All that has changed is that the Department of Education has created a way to file paperwork using an online process. This process does not line up with state law.
"We won't accept the HSLDA form or the HOME form. You need to use the online process."
—Nonsense. It doesn't matter if the school or the state "accepts" your paperwork. They have no authority to accept or reject it! Once you have submitted paperwork that complies with state law, your job is done. The local and state folks can do what they want with the papers. I recommend that you transmit your paperwork in a way that gives you evidence that you sent it (postal receipt, fax confirmation, email confirmation, signature to confirm hand delivery). Keep this evidence in your permanent records.
"Homeschool registration change: Did you know that the Maine Department of Education (DOE) now requires you to register online and upload your child's previous year's assessments? Forms are no longer mailed to the Maine DOE and your local school district."
—Nonsense. No law has changed. Many jurisdictions have passed anti-bullying laws. Why do they think it's OK to bully homeschool moms and dads?
"Why won't you cooperate? It will make our lives easier if you just use the online process."
—If administrative officials want to ease their jobs a bit, they can scan your paperwork, store it safely, then discard the originals. Very simple. Homeschoolers pay thousands of dollars in taxes for services we don't use. Don't try to guilt us into thinking that it's our fault that an entry-level administrator must spend 30 seconds twice a year scanning and electronically storing our paperwork!
"Yikes! The school sent back the test results I submitted because I didn't use the online process! What do I do now?"
—If you have something in your file to confirm that you sent it (postal receipt, fax confirmation, email confirmation, signature to confirm hand delivery), the law requires nothing more. They can send it back to you or send it to the moon. It doesn't matter. You have done all the law requires you to do. If you have no proof that you sent it, simply send it again and keep the proof that you sent it. Don't allow yourself to be bullied!
Our discussions with the Department did not yield the results for which we had hoped.
There is power in unity! Well-intending homeschool families who use the state forms are lending credibility to the department's out-of-line actions. That will only encourage them to keep it up. As an unintended consequence, it will put pressure on families who want to provide what they owe, but not more than they owe.
We have not had a battle for freedom in a number of years in Maine. We didn't ask for this one, but here it is. I know Maine homeschool families will stand tall!
HSLDA and Homeschoolers of Maine are united on this.