News Story

State superintendent asks Michigan lawmakers for home school registry

Homeschool registry presented as safety issue, though officials cite no data

All students in Michigan will be registered by the government if the Michigan superintendent of public instruction, Michael F. Rice, has his way.

“Knowing where all children are enrolled in an educational setting is an issue of student safety, neither more nor less,” Rice stated in a Jan. 10 letter to lawmakers requesting the state registration.

Rice noted there are four buckets of educational programs in the state: Public (including charter schools), private, parochial and homeschools. He says the state should have a record of all children enrolled in all educational programs, for reasons of safety and to find those who are not being educated.

It is not clear, however, that homeschooled children, who are currently not registered with the state, are at a greater risk for harm than students in public schools. Some studies have found that children who learn at home may suffer less harm, including abuse, neglect and death, than their public-school counterparts, as previously reported by CapCon.

CapCon asked Rice in an email what data and studies show that children are not safe in a home environment. 

“The importance of enrolling children in the four main groups of students is to help ascertain the children in Michigan who are not receiving an education in any manner,” said Martin Ackley, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education. “It is the safety of children whose situation is not known that is most concerning.”

CapCon asked Ackley for data that shows greater dangers for children not registered with the state. He has not replied.

Michael Van Beek, director of research at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is skeptical of the proposal’s merits. He asked the following questions regarding Rice’s request:

  • How exactly will requiring students to register increase safety?
  • What is the department planning to do with the information in the registry?
  • How will the department identify and prevent the abusive and neglected environments referenced in the letter?
  • Does the state expect the parents who have created those environments to willingly register their children to the state?
  • What does the department recommend as a penalty for failing to register? Who will enforce it?
  • How much does the department estimate the enforcement will cost?
  • What is the state currently doing about these missing students? Are school districts not adequately enforcing the truancy law?

Public school students are not immune to harm. There were 659 violent crimes and 1,396 expulsions in Michigan’s public schools in 2022-23, with incidents involving bombs, firearms and physical violence resulting in injury.

Detroit has a problem with chronic absenteeism, which was at 77% in 2021-22. Detroit is not the only district to grapple with chronic absenteeism, but it was fourth in the nation. Fewer than three out of 10 students scored at or above proficient in Michigan’s public schools on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students in 40 states scored better.

Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, called in December for requiring homeschoolers to register after Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges against two sets of parents who were alleged to have abused children in their care.

The children were homeschooled and had been in the foster care system previously, where they were monitored by the state, which also approved the adoption of some of them.

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.