Alternatives to Public School Classroom Education

There are three options available to parents who want to provide a setting other than a public school classroom:


The first option is private tutoring which is a statutory exemption from the compulsory public school attendance law (Education Code sections 48200, 48224). The tutor (who may be any person including a parent) must have a valid California teaching credential for the grade level being taught and instruction must be in the branches of study required in the public schools.

Tutoring must be provided for at least three hours per day, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and for at least 175 days per calendar year, and in the English language. The affidavit required of a private school (discussed below) is not required of a tutor.


The second option, which is also a statutory exemption from attendance in the public school system, is to enroll the student in a private full-time day school (Education Code section 48222). Private schools must instruct pupils in all the branches of study required in the public schools. Private school authorities must keep attendance in a register, indicating every absence by a pupil of a half day or more for each day that school is maintained. The law does not set any minimum standards for private schools with regard to number of students, number or length of school days, and does not require that instructors be credentialed. Private school instructors must be "capable of teaching." The California Attorney General has interpreted this to mean that teachers in private schools should meet standards comparable to these required for public school teachers in similar positions, excepting only the credentials (3 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 193).

The law requires private school authorities to file a Private School Affidavit with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction disclosing certain information (Education Code section 33190). This affidavit is solely for statistical purposes and publishing a directory of private K-12 schools in the State. It is not a license or approval to operate a private school. Both the private school exemption (Section 48222) and the affidavit requirement (Section 33190) explicitly states that filing the Private School Affidavit is not to be construed as an approval of the school or its courses. Therefore, filing the affidavit has no effect on the status of a person or institution; it does not transform a parent into a private school. People v. Turner (1953) 121Cal.App.2d Supp.861, appeal dismissed 347 U.S.972, rejected the concept that parents may designate their own home instruction program a "private school" in order to avoid the credential requirement. That conclusion was affirmed in the court case, In re Shinn (1961) 195 Cal.App.2d 683, and held that such courses do not constitute a "private full-time day school" within the meaning of the Education Code (id., at 693-694).

The California Department of Education uses an online process for filing Private School Affidavits. Please visit For more information, please call (916) 319-0373 or (916) 445-7331.


As a third option, the Department of Education encourages parents to consider independent study through the local public school system (Education Code section 51745 and following). This is an alternative to classroom instruction, and is consistent with the local school district's course of study. Although enrollment in the public school is required, independent study allows students to pursue educational opportunities outside the classroom and is taught by a credentialed employee of the school district. A child with exceptional needs may participate in independent study only if his or her individualized education program, developed pursuant to Education Code section 56340 and following, provides for that participation (Education code section 51745(c )).

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