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Wisconsin Compulsory Education Laws

While their parents are constantly worrying about how best to meet their children’s educational needs, kids are wondering why they have to even go to school in the first place. The answer is because the Badger State’s education laws have certain requirements regarding formal schooling. This is a quick introduction to compulsory education laws in Wisconsin.

Compulsory Education

Every state has some version of their own compulsory education laws - statutes that require children of a certain age to attain a specified level of education. These can apply to public school, private school, home school, or something else. Children between the ages of six and eighteen are required to attend school. Wisconsin school officials are permitted to pursue criminal prosecutions of parents for not meeting the statute’s educational requirements.

Wisconsin’s Compulsory Education Statutes

Wisconsin’s compulsory education laws are listed in the table below.

Code Section

118.15, et seq.

Age at Which School Attendance is Required

Between 6 and 18

Exceptions to Attendance Requirements

Child has graduated; physical/mental condition renders incapable; child is home-schooled or attends private school; at 16 child may attend technical school leading to high school graduation

Home School Provisions

Must meet requirements for a private school such as at least 875 hours of instruction each year; instruction in reading, language arts, math, social studies, science, and health; performance monitored on regular basis

Penalties on Parents for Noncompliance

First offense: fine up to $500 and/or prison up to 30 days;

Second offense: fine up to $1,000 and or/prison up to 90 days.

(If child's disobedience can be shown, action shall be dismissed.)

There are a few exceptions to compulsory education laws, most of which are based on religious beliefs and teaching. States have generally granted exemptions to children who attend home school, as long as parents have met the same educational standards for their children that were required of public and state-accredited private schools. A few states offer work release permits that can allow a student to be away from school in order to work a limited amount of hours during a normal school day.

In Wisconsin, public school students aged of 16 or 17 may be excused from regular school attendance if the student and a parent or guardian agree in writing that the student will participate in a curriculum leading to the student’s high school graduation or a high school equivalency diploma.

Wisconsin Compulsory Education Laws: Related Resources

Education laws can be complicated, especially when you’re trying to determine the statutory requirements. You can find more introductory information and resources on this topic by visiting FindLaw's Compulsory Education section. You can also contact a Wisconsin education attorney if you would like legal assistance regarding an education matter.

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