by Katie Julius

Those of you longtime homeschoolers may be reading the title of this blog quizzically since traditionally, we don’t really start talking about the Private School Affidavit (or PSA) until September as the October 1-15 filing window approaches.

However, as you may be aware, earlier this year, the California Department of Education (CDE) announced that the PSA would be available online beginning August 1 this year. This has brought a flurry of questions and caused much confusion among new and experienced private home educators alike.

So, with August 1 here, we wanted to address some of these questions and concerns to help you determine what is best for your family.

MYTH: I should file the PSA as soon as it’s available online (August 1, 2023).

While the CDE may have changed the timeframe that the PSA form is available to private schools, the law itself remains unchanged. California Education Code (E.C.) Section 33190 states, “Every person … offering or conducting private school instruction on the elementary or high school level shall between the first and 15th day of October of each year … file with the Superintendent of Public Instruction an affidavit or statement, under penalty of perjury, by the owner or other head setting forth the following information for the current year.” (emphasis added)

If a school doesn’t exist at the time of the filing period, obviously, they cannot file the PSA during the mandated filing period. They would, instead, file at the time the school is created (when the student is enrolled and instruction begins). However, this is a different scenario than filing before the mandated filing period.

Our recommendation, for both new and existing private home schools, is to file during the filing period as mandated by law.

This law was created well before the internet was at our fingertips. PSAs were filed by mailing a hard copy form containing the information. However, despite advancements in technology, a government agency such as the CDE does not have the authority to revise laws. It may seem obsolete, but we always recommend that families follow the very simple laws that are in place for private home educators. We have it pretty easy here, especially considering it’s California, and we want to preserve those rights by being compliant with the laws.

We suspect one of the main reasons the PSA is now available prior to the filing period is to make it easier for the schools from which students are being withdrawn. Some schools have been requiring parents to provide a copy of their PSA or PSA confirmation number to withdraw their students. Unfortunately, we’ve seen quite a bit of bowing by the CDE to the public schools by changing their processes and guidance, rather than trying to inform the public schools of the laws regarding private schooling in California. Our aim is to educate families on these laws, to help them stand up for their rights, and to have the proper procedures followed, as outlined in the Ed. Code.

MYTH: I have to show a copy of the PSA to my school in order to withdraw my student.

While the public school does have a legal obligation to ensure a student who is being withdrawn is subsequently enrolled in a school that is compliant with the education laws in California, providing a copy of the PSA doesn’t actually accomplish that. There’s no student data, other than the number of students in each grade, on the PSA. Additionally, a PSA cannot be filed unless there is at least one student enrolled in the school. In California, students cannot be enrolled in two K-12 schools at the same time. By filing a PSA prior to withdrawing your student, your student is actually enrolled in both schools.

We feel the best course of action, to be compliant with all of the laws, is to send two letters to your school. The first is from you, as the parent, letting the school know that you are withdrawing them as of a certain date. You can let them know they will be enrolling in a private school (never mention homeschooling as it’s not a legal education term in California). You can either include the name you plan to use for your private school or just state that their new school will be in contact to confirm enrollment and request their cumulative file.

The second letter is from you, this time, as the administrator of your private school. You will want to confirm your student’s enrollment in your school as well as request their full and complete records. Remember, you are requesting this as the administrator of the school, not as  a parent. If the school responds that you need to provide a copy of your PSA, you can simply reply that you plan to file it during the mandated filing period as required by law.

Once you file in October, you should still not need to show proof that your PSA was filed as the school should be able to look it up in the CDE’s database. If you do decide to show them proof, we recommend providing only the confirmation email (not your entire PSA form), blacking out your confirmation code as that provides access to the data in your PSA and the ability to change/amend it.

MYTH: I will have truancy officers knocking at my door if I wait to file my PSA in October.

The likelihood of this happening is extremely low. If you follow all of the steps that we outlined above in accordance with the law, you should be able to withdraw your student without incident. This would avoid any truancy actions being taken against your student or you.

If, and that’s a very big if, your student was not properly withdrawn, there is a fairly lengthy process before the school/district will send someone to your door. You should be aware that something didn’t go right when withdrawing your student well before someone is at your door. Additionally, their resources are limited. They would only do this as an absolute last resort. We always recommend families who are homeschooling privately to have membership with HSLDA as they are able to provide legal representation in the rare circumstance s it is needed.

In Conclusion

We want to reiterate … the law has not changed. The legal mandatory filing period for all private schools is still October 1-15, annually. The only thing that is different is when the form is available on the CDE website.

Families may choose to file at that time if it will help with a withdrawal process from another school (though it’s not our recommendation to do so). However, you do not have to file until the October filing period, even if you are trying to withdraw your student(s).

If you are an already existing private school, there is no reason to file before the mandatory October 1-15 filing period. If you are new to homeschooling this year, we still recommend that you wait for the filing period. If you are having challenges withdrawing your student from their previous school, we encourage you to join and reach out to CHEA of California and HSLDA.

Need help filing your PSA? Join us for our annual PSA Virtual Filing Party on Monday, October 2, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. where our hosts will walk you through each and every question one-by-one as you complete your PSA along with us. 

We are not lawyers. The information included in this article does not constitute legal advice.