Report Requirement for Homeschool Students Constitutional

Iowa law upheld.

Church Law and Tax 1993-11-01 Recent Developments


Key point: Parents who choose to educate their children at home on the basis of their religious beliefs may be required to comply with reporting requirements under state law.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a state law requiring parents who “homeschool” their children to submit annual reports to the state did not violate the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom. A couple educated their children (ages 8 and 10) at home on the basis of their religious beliefs. They failed to file an annual report required by Iowa law for all parents who educate their children at home. The required report asks parents to provide several items of information including an outline of the course of study to be pursued, the texts to be used, and the name and address of the instructor. The parents refused to submit this report, and they were prosecuted and convicted for failing to do so. They defended themselves on appeal by arguing that compliance with the reporting law would impede the free exercise of their religious beliefs. The state supreme court disagreed in a unanimous decision. It concluded that the state has a right to set minimum educational standards for all children, and that this right authorizes the state to require parents who educate their children at home to comply with reporting requirements designed to ensure that minimum education standards are being met. The court concluded that the parents’ constitutional right to freely exercise their religion is subordinate to the state’s authority to establish and enforce minimum education standards. It observed: “The state has a clear right to set minimum educational standards for all its children and a corresponding responsibility to see to it that those standards are honored. When such standards are set in place, compliance with them falls within the ambit of the fundamental contract between the citizens and society …. We see no alternative to reasonable reporting requirements if the state does not choose to abdicate responsibility to see that these standards are honored.” State v. Rivera, 497 N.W.2d 878 (Iowa 1993).

See Also: “Homeschools”

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