Oklahoma Law Affecting Home Education
This analysis does not constitute the giving of legal advice. Blue text portions represent actual wording of Oklahoma statutes. Italicized notes represent OCHEC's comments. All other portions reprinted with permission of Home School Legal Defense Association.
Oklahoma Constitution, Section 4, Article 13
Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to homeschool. Section 4, Art. 13 of the Constitution of Oklahoma guarantees the homeschool exemption by stating that the legislature "shall" provide for the "compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the ages of eight and sixteen, for at least three months each year."
[Note: This is original wording from the Oklahoma Constitution. See Compulsory Attendance Ages and Required Days of Instruction.]
It seems quite evident that the "other means of education" language is directly applicable to homeschooling since it was added for the specific purpose of protecting the right of parents to choose homeschooling. In 1907, during the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, one of the delegates, Mr. Buchanan, proposed that the phrase "unless other means of education be provided" be added to Article 13, Section 4. Favorably responding to Mr. Buchanan's proposal, another delegate, Mr. Baker stated,
"I think Mr. Buchanan has suggested a solution. A man's own experience sometimes will teach him. I have two little fellows that are not attending a public school because it is too far for them to walk and their mother makes them study four hours a day."
As a result of this discussion on homeschooling, the "other means of education" language was added to Article 13, Section 4.
Attorney General Opinion No. 73-129
According to Attorney General Opinion No. 73-129 (Feb. 13, 1973) Oklahoma law recognizes the right of parents to carry out this responsibility through homeschooling "so long as the private instruction is supplied in good faith and equivalent in fact to that afforded by the State." Equivalency has never been defined by any court or Attorney General opinion, nor is equivalency mandated by law. However, it seems clear that the point of the Attorney General opinion is that homeschooling must not be used as a subterfuge for truancy.
Attorney General Opinion No. 73-129
The Oklahoma Compulsory Attendance Statute does not require that a private school be accredited by the State Department of Education or that a private tutor hold an Oklahoma teaching certificate so long as the private instruction is supplied in good faith and is equivalent in fact to that afforded by the State. While a board of education has discretion to classify students as it deems appropriate and to require examinations relative thereto [for readmission to the public schools - ed.], credit for private instruction may not be denied solely because the private instructor did not hold an Oklahoma teaching certificate. A board of education is not required to furnish textbooks or other materials to a child residing in the district not attending a district-operated school. (Emphasis added)
[Note: While the Attorney General's opinion is not law, OCHEC encourages home educators to honor it since OCHEC promotes obeying not only the letter of the law but the spirit as well.]
Compulsory Attendance Ages
"over the age of five (5) years and under the age of eighteen (18) years." Oklahoma Statutes Annotated Title 70, § 10-105(A)-(B).
70 O.S. 1997, §10-105
It shall be unlawful for a parent, guardian, or other person having custody of a child who is over the age of five (5) years and under the age of eighteen (18) years, to neglect or refuse to cause or compel such child to attend and comply with the rules of some public, private or other school, unless other means of education are provided for the full term the schools of the district are in session or the child is excused as provided in this section.... It shall be unlawful for any child who is over the age of sixteen (16) years and under the age of eighteen (18) years, and who has not finished four (4) years of high school work, to neglect or refuse to attend and comply with the rules of some public, private or other school, or receive an education by other means for the full term the schools of the district are in session. (Emphasis added)
Required Days of Instruction
[Note: The following two statutes are public school requirements which MAY apply to home education based on equivalency.]
180 days. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 1-110.
70 O.S. 1997, §1-110
"A school month shall consist of twenty (20) school days during which school is actually taught or school activities performed. Provided, that holidays, elections, days devoted to professional meetings and other days when school is closed may be included in the number of days required for a regular school month, but no holiday or other occasion when school is not in session shall be included in the one hundred eighty (180) days required to be taught, except not to exceed five (5) days may be used for attendance of professional meetings (Emphasis added)
70 O.S. 1997, §1-1ll
"A school day for any group of pupils shall consist of not less than six (6) hours devoted to school activities, except that a school day for nursery, early childhood education, kindergarten, first grade, extended day program, and alternative education programs shall be as otherwise defined by law or as defined by the State Board of Education. ... Beginning with the 1993-94 school year, the school day for kindergarten may consist of six (6) hours devoted to school activities."
[Note: One-on-one tutoring may not require six hours per day, especially for younger students.]
[Note: The following statute is a public school requirement which MAY apply to home education based on equivalency.]
Reading, writing, math, science, citizenship, United States constitution, health, safety, physical education, conservation. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, 11-103.
70 O.S. 1997, §11-103
"A. Courses of instruction approved by the State Board of Education for use in school years prior to 1993-94 shall be those courses that are necessary to ensure: 1. The teaching of the necessary basic skills of learning and communication, including reading, English, writing, the use of numbers and science; and 2. The teaching of citizenship in the United States, in the State of Oklahoma, and in other countries, through the study of the United States Constitution, the amendments thereto, and the ideals, history, and government of the United States, other countries of the world, and the State of Oklahoma and through the study of the principles of democracy as they apply in the lives of citizens. In study of the United States Constitution, a written copy of the document itself shall be utilized....
B. Courses approved by the State Board of Education for instruction of pupils in the public schools of the state for use in school years prior to 1993-94 may include courses that are approved by a local board of education and are necessary to ensure: 1. The teaching of health; 2. The teaching of safety; 3. The teaching of physical education; 4. The teaching of the conservation of natural resources; 5. The teaching of vocational education; and 6. The teaching of... other aspects of human living and citizenship..."
[Note: For college-bound students, refer to the Oklahoma State Board of Education Regulations for Graduation listed at www.sde.state.ok.us or required courses at the college of your choice.]
Teacher Qualifications and Standardized Tests
Oklahoma law does not require parents to use certified teachers or state-approved curricula, initiate contact with, register with or seek approval from state or local officials, test their students or permit public school officials to visit or inspect homes. Homeschools are not regulated, since the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution specifically intended "other means of education" to include homeschooling and gave the state no authority to regulate.
Case Laws Allowing for Home Schools
In Snyder v. Asbery (No. 78,045, Oklahoma Court of Appeals, Div. 2, May 18, 1993), the Oklahoma Court of Appeals returned two children to the custody of their homeschooling father, reversing a lower court decision. On page 4 of the decision, the Court agreed with the homeschooling father, stating "...the State Department of Education has no jurisdiction in homeschooling." See 70 O.S.1991 § 3-104 … Okla. Const. art. 13, § 5…."
In the case Sheppard v. Oklahoma, 306 P.2d 346 (Okla. Crim. App. 1957), the court held that requirements of school attendance laws could be met even though children were not attending public or private school. The court said "education may be furnished without attendance at any school." Sheppard, at 353. The court also emphasized "it was incumbent on the state to offer proof" that "no other means of education was provided." Sheppard, at 356. In other words, the state failed to carry its burden of proof since it failed to prove that "other means of education" were not being provided. The court indicated further that, if the state finds other means of education are being provided, then they must prove that the means of education is not "adequate and comparable" to instruction in public schools. Sheppard, at 356. The court also suggested the state could inquire about the curriculum in two areas: period of instruction and subjects taught.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in School Board Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson, 103 P. 578, 24 Okla. 1 (1909), upheld parental rights against the public school's authority. "Under our form of government … the home is considered the keystone of the governmental structure. In this empire, parents rule supreme during the minority of their children … they may … withdraw them entirely from public schools and send them to private schools, or provide for them other means of education."