News Story

Officials differ on effects, reasons for homeschool registry

Proponents will ‘want entry into the house,’ state board member says

A bill discussed but not yet introduced in the Michigan House would require homeschooling families and parents of private school students to register with their local district. Mixed messages from lawmakers mean it’s uncertain what a registry would do and what regulations or steps might follow a law to require registration.

Media reports say that Rep. Kimberly Edwards, D-Eastpointe, will be the sponsor. The bill, she said, will only require parents to check a box to inform their local district that their child is being homeschooled. “It’s not saying it’s going to track it,” Edwards, said, as quoted by Fox-47 News.

“It’s not going to alert [Child Protective Services] to come to your home. It’s not going to do any of that,” Edwards continued. ”This legislation’s only to require individuals who are homeschooling or sending their kids to private school to register in their school district, letting individuals know their child exists and (is) being homeschooled or in a private school,” she said.

Some lawmakers have said student safety requires a registry. Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, cited a case of alleged foster abuse when he called for more oversight over homeschooling families. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, believes monitoring is needed to protect homeschooled children from abuse. State Superintendent Michael Rice has said that some students went missing during the pandemic and “weren’t being educated at all,” in a statement he made to the State Board of Education earlier this year.

Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, pointed to financial considerations. Speaking of school officials, she said, “They see that every child missing from their district is money they would have in their district that they don’t have, and they believe they deserve to have,” according to Fox-47 News. Simply putting names on a list but not having a follow-up plan would not protect student safety, she added.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, chair of the Senate Education Committee, told Bridge Michigan there would be no further regulations past a registry while she’s in office. The purpose of the legislation is to account for all students, she said, not monitor them.

But Tom McMillin, a Republican member of the State Board of Education member, believes the bill is just the first step in a plan to regulate homeschoolers. “It’s going to go beyond registration,” McMillin said at a Feb. 13 board meeting. “They’re either going to want to know exactly what’s being taught or want entry into the house.”

While lawmakers can’t agree on the purpose of a registry or what steps would follow, one thing is clear: Legislation to require homeschoolers to register is on the horizon.

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.