In the United States, where homeschooling is universally allowed, although there are varying state regulations, Puerto Rico has jumped to top.
The U.S. territory has adopted a law that makes the decision of parents to teach their children a “fundamental right.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association, a U.S.-based advocate for homeschooling that works worldwide, lists the requirements in all 50 states, ranging from no notice for parents to homeschool – such as Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Idaho and Illinois – to the highly regulated Pennsylvania and New York.
Now, Puerto Rico is the first among U.S. states and territories to recognize homeschooling as a fundamental right, thanks to a law signed by Gov. Ricardo Rossello Nevares on June 7, HSLDA said.
HSLDA President Mike Smith said the designation is one of his organization’s major objectives.
“In other states and territories, we have successfully argued that homeschooling is within the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” he said. “This is in keeping with precedent established by the United States Supreme Court, which has recognized protection for parents’ educational choices arising from the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
He noted the U.S. Supreme Court approved of the practice as early as 1925.
But he said Puerto Rico has taken it to a new level.
“This issue was settled for parents in Puerto Rico when the new law, Legislative Act P. del. S. 255, declared homeschooling itself to be a fundamental right,” he explained. “Currently in Puerto Rico, homeschooling families are exempt from public school attendance under the non-governmental entity school’s exemption. However, this action on the part of the legislature and governor will ensure that homeschooling families have the highest constitutional protections, just as we all do for rights such as free speech and free association.”
The designation is significant, because it requires even the government to prove an overwhelming reason for the right to be violated.
HSLDA over the years has argued in courts around the world for the rights of parents to provide their children’s education, from Sweden to Germany to the European Court of Human Rights.
Across America, the organization has sued when school districts, cities or other local jurisdictions decide to demand more than the law allows from homeschooling parents. And it has successfully lobbied over and over for clear laws that allow parental teaching.
On the Puerto Rico development, the organization said much of the credit “for this monumental victory for parents goes to Carlos Perez, our local counsel in Puerto Rico.”
“Carlos’ actions were prompted by a change in government policy requiring church schools to obtain a license before they could operate. Since homeschools also operate as private schools, it seemed appropriate to protect the right of homeschools as well as church schools.”
HSLDA said that by “recognizing homeschooling as a fundamental right – the highest constitutional protection available – Puerto Rico has declared the value and importance of educational freedom.”