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Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Changes to Arkansas Homeschool Laws

*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This is what I know of the changes to homeschool laws in Arkansas this year.  If you need further information, The Education Alliance can provide some information.  The HSLDA is a resource for homeschool laws in all 50 states and can help with any legal questions you may have.

In 2017 there were several changes to homeschool laws that will benefit homeschoolers.

The biggest change was in the Notice of Intent and Homeschool Waiver.  Homeschoolers are no longer required to fill in information about their homeschool curriculum and schedule.  They also no longer have to fill out a waiver stating the state of Arkansas is not responsible for their child's education.  The new form is one page and only requires your name, address, date you are starting, and names , birthdates, and grades of your children along with where they attended school last year.  You do sign a statement saying you will be responsible for your child's education.  You must file your forms by August 15th.  They can be sent in the mail, dropped off in person, emailed, or filled out online on the Department of Education website.  I will tell you that they have not updated the online form and it will not be updated this year (there was no money in the budget to update the forms), so if you fill it out online you will still see the old form.  I personally do not like their online system anyway because after filling out your form you are sent an email telling you that your form will have to be approved and the approval email takes months to arrive.  There is no need for any kind of approval in the state of Arkansas. If you fill out your form online you are legal to homeschool.  I have read that you can put a N/A in the section that asks about curriculum.  You will still have to fill out the Waiver in the online form.  You can find a form to print or file online here.

I am not sure why it wasn't legal before, but it has now been made legal for homeschoolers to enroll in individual academic courses at public schools under Act 173.  Each district has their own regulations on this so if you are interested you will have to look into this at your district.  If you enroll in too many courses, you will no longer be considered a homeschooler.

In 2013, The Tim Tebow Law was passed in Arkansas allowing homeschoolers to participate in extra curricular activities in their resident school district.  This year, Act 592 was passed allowing homeschoolers to participate in these activities in any school in the state, not just their own district.  Now, there are some conditions to this.  You have to have permission from the superintendent in the district that you live in and the superintendent from the school you want to participate in.  If either one objects you cannot participate. If you are trying to participate in a AAA run activity, the student must wait 365 days upon approval before being able to compete, but can participate immediately in practices.  So if your 9th grade child wants to play football and you get approval this year, they can practice with the team this year but cannot play in any games until next year, unless they are entering 7th grade then they can play in games/competitions immediately.  The school district can require your child to take a class.  Many activities like track, football, cheerleading and band take place during the school day and counts as a class.  Any activity that takes place after school can require your child to be in school for one class period a day to participate in that activity. This is up to the school.  You also may have to provide standardized test scores to prove your child's academic eligibility. 

Act 453 makes it possible for homeschoolers to participate at a AAA member private school within 25 miles of their home if the school approves.

Act 863 was passed to require public schools to recognize coursework completed by students while they are being homeschooled.  It also prevents discrimination involving awards, honors, and scholarships.

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