Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Earlier today, Governor Rick Snyder signed House Bill 4041 (now Public Act 56 of 2015), which ties certain welfare payments to school attendance. In particular, the act prohibits any family from receiving "family independence program assistance" if a child in that family under the age of 16 does not attend school as required by MCL 380.1561.
Pursuant to MCL 380.1561(1), all Michigan children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend school on a continuous basis for the entire academic year. However, under MCL 380.1561(3)(f) and (4), this compulsory-attendance requirement does not apply to children who are home schooled. Do you see where I'm going with this?
Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that linking a family's welfare payments to a child's school attendance is actually good public policy.
There are essentially no requirements for parents who home school their children in Michigan. Parents are not required by law to inform their children's school district of the decision to begin home schooling them. No office or department keeps track of which children are being home schooled; there is no registry of children who are being home schooled. Indeed, as a Michigan Department of Education bulletin makes clear, "It is not required that a parent inform their [sic] local school of the decision to home school, however, it is suggested."
Moreover, there are no enforceable curricular requirements that must be followed by parents who home school their children. Quite simply, under current Michigan law there is absolutely no difference between "home schooling" and "no schooling."
As I have written previously, it is impossible to enforce the state's truancy laws if no one knows why a child is absent from school. How will the authorities know that a chronically absent child is not simply being "home schooled"? Since there are no registries or reporting requirements, they won't.
In short, Public Act 56 of 2015, like the truancy law to which it refers, is completely unenforceable. Any parent who is confronted about a truant child can simply claim that the child is being "home schooled," whether it's technically true or not. And there is nothing that the state can do about it.
So parents, take heed: If you want to insulate your kids from the requirements of MCL 380.1561(1), and if you want to ensure that you'll never lose any welfare payments under Public Act 56 of 2015, remove your kids from the structured school environment and start "home schooling" them today! Oh, and that pesky little "schooling" thing? Don't worry. You don't actually have to "school" them or teach them anything—it's enough to just pretend that you are.