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A relative of mine lives in Washington and would like to start a "learning pod" for their children which would work as follows:

  1. One parent contracts a teacher to work for them full time
  2. All the other parents pool in money to help pay the salary
  3. Kids from 8-10 households gather in someones home (they're lucky to live in a rural area so there's tons of space) and learn as they would in a normal school
  4. No contracts would be signed and no one except the teacher is profiting from the arrangement. If required the parents can wire the money directly to the teacher to avoid the organizer having control over finances. Likewise the space is being provided free of charge.
  5. No one will officially call it a "school" or advertise it as such (in fact, there would be zero public advertising). On paper all the kids will be homeschooled and not enrolled in any educational institution whatsoever.

Would any permits be required for such and arrangement? If yes, would anything change if one of the parents play the role of a teacher and no one is paying any money whatsoever for any services?

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  • I rather suspect the law would treat this as a private school, and require a license, but I haven't check specific law yet, and I might well be wrong, which is why this is a comment and not an answer. I know that if any of the parents pay the teacher $600 or more in a calendar year, a 1099 is legally required with a copy to the IRS,and probably a copy to the state. If the teacher meets the tests for an employee, a W4 and W2 are required, along with tax withholding. Doing neither of these would be clearly illegal, although one might get away with it. Such forms might alert the government. May 19 at 22:07
  • @DavidSiegel the interesting question is what actually turns a private gathering of children into a "school" May 19 at 22:27
  • @JonathanReez I'd guess the exchange of money is enough to do it.
    – bdb484
    May 19 at 22:45
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Parents Can't Legally do That

To count as "homeschooling in the state of it must consist of a parent (or parents) instructing his or her own children. If another parent, much less a hired teacher, is doing the teaching this is a private school and must be licensed and approved.

Thew Washington laws are summarized in the page "Home Based Instruction" from the Washington State office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This Says:

RCW 28A.200.011 states that each person whose child is receiving home-based instruction under RCW 28A.225.010 (4) must file annually a signed declaration of intent that he or she is planning to cause his or her child to receive home-based instruction.

current school year. This data is used to maintain student enrollment statistics and project enrollment statistics and trends.

This page also links to The Pink Book: Washington State Laws Regulating Home-Based Instruction (PDF) This provides some greater explanation and frequently asked questions around home-based instruction.

The Pink Book says:

compliance with the law? RCW 28A.225.010 requires all parents of any child 8 years of age and under 18 years of age in this state to cause such children to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides for the full time when the school is in session, unless:

  • The child is attending an approved private school or is enrolled in an extension program of an approved private school.
  • The child is receiving home-based instruction.
  • The child is attending an education center.
  • The school district superintendent has excused the child from attendance ...

RCW 28A.225.010(4) defines instruction as home-based if it consists of planned and supervised instructional and related educational activities, including curriculum and instruction in the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, and the development of an appreciation of art and music provided for a number of hours per grade level established for approved private schools (see question 3 below) and if such activities are provided by a qualified parent.

RCW 28A.225.010(4) requires that the instructional and educational activities be: a. Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and is supervised by a person certificated under Chapter 28A.410 RCW. The supervision consists of and includes planning of objectives by the certificated person and the parent, a minimum each month of an average of one contact hour per week with the child being supervised by the certificated person, and evaluation of such child’s progress by the certificated person. The number of children supervised by the certificated person shall not exceed 30.

b. Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and who has either earned 45 college-level credit hours or the equivalent in semester hours or has completed a course in home-based instruction at postsecondary institution or a vocational-technical institute.

c. Provided by a parent who is deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district in which the child resides.

The actual laws, linked above, confirm that home-based instruction can only be provided by an actual parent to his or her own child. Instructing a child of some other parent, much less hiring a teacher, moves this out of the category of home-based instruction, and into that of a private school. And to be valid for school attendance, a private school must be approved and licensed, and offer a minimum of 180 days per school year, or 1000 hours of instruction, with an approved curriculum, and certified teachers, and various other requirements.

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    Thanks. Sounds like WA is quite hostile to such informal arrangements. May 20 at 6:39
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RCW 28A.225.010 establishes a system of compulsory public education for most students from the ages of 8 to 18. It allows exceptions for students receiving "home-based instruction," but that exception only applies to students whose instruction is "provided by a parent."

Because the parents are paying for a teacher rather than providing the instruction themselves, this arrangement would not qualify as "home-based education," and all the parents involved would be subject to penalties under RCW 28A.225.090:

Any parent violating any of the provisions of either RCW 28A.225.010, 28A.225.015, or 28A.225.080 shall be fined not more than twenty-five dollars for each day of unexcused absence from school. The court shall remit fifty percent of the fine collected under this section to the child's school district.

To make the arrangement work, then, the parents would need to have their collective certified as an actual private school under Chapter 28A.195 or as an education center under Chapter 28A.205, both of which also have exceptions under RCW 28A.225.010.

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  • But does RCW 28A.225.090 actively ban doing both home tutoring by the parent and using this unofficial hangout group for learning? I.e. if the parent spends some time per week teaching math to their kid, does that make it okay? Any lawsuits on the matter would be interesting, even if in other states. May 19 at 23:03
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    Private tutoring is fine, but it can't be used to replace instruction provided by the parent, which must add up to enough to satisfy the 180-day/1,000-hour requirement under RCW 28A.195.010. If the parents provide those hours, I don't see what problems there would be with hiring a tutor to supplement.
    – bdb484
    May 19 at 23:08
  • Also, I'm now seeing "A parent for the purpose of this chapter means a parent, guardian, or person having legal custody of a child". So if this "teacher" becomes a guardian of the child, doesn't this make it okay? May 19 at 23:09
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    I suppose, but guardianship is a huge deal; the guardian gets custody of the ward and generally takes on full financial and decision-making authority. A judge isn't going to give your tutor guardianship over your kids to help you skirt education laws.
    – bdb484
    May 19 at 23:17
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It depends on where this school is operated: a business license may be required. No license is required to "teach", but government approval is required to operate an accredited school (no license is required). It is not difficult to comply with the mandatory school rule by sending a child to an accredited school, and also tune up their education with time in the pod. The link summaizes what a private learning pod would have to do to be accredited and stand in for more conventional schools. Given your condition 5 ("no other school"), this is what you'd have to do.

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