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California Compulsory Education Laws

Parents have a great deal of freedom in deciding how to raise their children and the government typically limits its interference with this freedom. However, parents do have some responsibilities imposed by law with regard to providing schooling for their children. For parents wondering about home schooling, it is important to know which education laws apply and how. Here is a quick introduction to compulsory education laws in California.

Education Law Generally

In all U.S. states, including California, compulsory education laws mandate some form of education for children from early childhood through their teens. Education was largely a private matter, often through churches, before the public took responsibility in the nineteenth century. California allows most alternative forms of education as well, including home schooling or private schools, and other exceptions.

Compulsory Education Law in California

Each state has its own state compulsory education laws. The basic provisions of California compulsory education laws are listed in the table below.

Code Section

Educ. §§48200, et seq.; 48400; 48293

Age at Which School Attendance is Required

Between 6 and 18; unless otherwise exempted, persons 16 to 18 must attend special continuation education classes

Exceptions to Attendance Requirements

Children attending private schools; child being tutored by person with state credential for grade being taught; children holding work permits (subject to compulsory part-time classes); child of 15 may take a leave of absence for supervised travel, study, training, or work not available to the student under another education option if certain conditions are met; illegal aliens (under Proposition 187 under judicial attack)

Home School Provisions

Parents may establish a "private school" in their home in order to home school their children. Statutory requirements for private schooling will apply. Alternatively, a parent with the appropriate teaching credentials may teach their child. Certain qualified home study programs (as defined by law) may also exist in some jurisdictions.

Penalties on Parents for Noncompliance

Guilty of an infraction; 1st conviction: fine up to $100; 2nd conviction: fine up to $250; 3rd or subsequent convictions: fine up to $500; in lieu of any fines, court may order person placed in parent education and counseling program

While compulsory schooling is still the norm, there are several exceptions to the laws, including some for religious beliefs. States also typically grant exemptions to children who are home schooled as long as they meet certain standards required of public and state-accredited private schools. Additionally, many states, including California, offer work release permits that allow students to work a limited number of hours outside of the school during a normal school day.

Related Resources for Compulsory Education Laws

Education law can be tricky, especially when it comes to reading and interpreting statutes. If you would like legal assistance with an education matter, you can get legal assistance by contacting an experienced education law attorney in California. Or you can find more general information on this topic in FindLaw’s compulsory education section.

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