How far will a Michigan homeschool registry go?

Different factions of Lansing Democrats have different visions for the extent and reach of homeschool regulation

The debate over a homeschool registry in Michigan is heating up, but the Democrats who run Lansing do not have a cohesive plan on how to proceed. Some say a registry is all that’s sought; others want full-blown regulation.

There is no documented problem with the homeschool community in Michigan to justify plans for a registry. Lawmakers have presented a disjointed vision on how to solve the supposed problem of the unregistered homeschooler.

Michigan is one of eleven states that currently do not require homeschool students to register with the state.

CapCon previously reached out to lawmakers Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth and Sen. Dayna Polehanki D-Livonia, who are pushing for a registry, to request what facts and data they used to determine the need for a new law. Neither wrote back. 

A week ago, Polehanki told reporters that the homeschool bill was coming soon, but wouldn’t say who would sponsor it. As of March 7 It has yet to materialize. 

The facts show that homeschool students fare better academically than their public-school counterparts. Based on the crime rates at public schools, homeschool students are likely much safer at home, as previously reported by CapCon.

Bridge Magazine recently published a story providing a Connecticut homeschool study. It reported:

A 2018 study by Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived with families with a history of reported child abuse or neglect. Connecticut is also a no-registration, low-regulation homeschool state.

However, the study is so limited in scope that it is a stretch to draw conclusions from it, according to Michael Van Beek, director of research at Mackinac Center.

Van Beek notes that researchers looked at 380 student withdrawals from six school districts in Connecticut from 2013-2016. He says five districts were unidentified, and the criteria for why they were chosen is vague.

Of the 380 students that left the districts, 139 belonged to families that had at least one report for suspected abuse or neglect. He says that 75% of families that withdrew had some kind of accepted report against them so this is not a random selection of homeschooling families.

Many of the reports of neglect were of students with prolonged absences. Van Beek says if these were families who decided to start homeschooling without formally notifying the district, they would likely be reported. He notes that most homeschool families will not usually just withdraw their children from a public school midyear.

If they do, it is usually for extenuating circumstances.

The Democrats have presented a disjointed vision of their push for new homeschool laws. Polehanki is chair of the Senate Education Committee. She said creating a homeschool registry is as far as it will go on her watch, according to Bridge Magazine.

But what happens when it is no longer her watch?

“Implementing monitoring mechanisms is crucial to ensure that all children, including those homeschooled, receive necessary protections,” stated Dana Nessel, Michigan’s attorney general.

Polehanki says a registry will suffice to ensure kids are actually in school. But the attorney general says all children, including homeschoolers, should be “monitored” and “receive necessary protections.”

The state does not monitor children from birth to Kindergarten. Some children do not interact with the government or other institutions such as daycare until they start school at four or five years of age. Will the state move to monitor or “register” these children as well, under the guise of protecting them from their parents?

Tom McMillin, a member of the Michigan Department of Education, voiced his concerns during a meeting captured on video. He says in the video that Nessel wants the list so she can have unwarranted entry into families’ homes.

The push for the registry came after Nessel announced an investigation into two homes where parents who homeschool their children are accused of abuse. The children had previously been in foster care and were monitored by the state.

When the state failed to protect children, its response was not to fix the foster care system. It was to register and monitor homeschool families. 

Lansing should focus on known and documented problems. Homeschoolers are not one of them.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.