Friday, September 29, 2006

What Church Schools in Ohio Should Do Today

The victory for church schools in Ohio was achieved through the grace of God and through the faithful stand of church leaders in Ohio, particularly Pastor Randall Townsend, president of Christian Schools of Ohio, and Pastor Keith Hamblen, president of Buckeye Christian Schools Association. Through their efforts, the Ohio Department of Education issued a letter on September 27, 2006, revoking the department's earlier letters which were so threatening to church schools and parents.

The department's letter was issued by Attorney Matthew J. DeTemple, Chief Legal Counsel, basically setting forth what the Minimum Standards have been for church schools since 1983. Since the letter overrules the department's earlier letters and updates the schools' obligations under the Minimum Standards, we have taken the liberty to reproduce the letter in its entirety. After reading the letter, please read the additional comments which I make, setting forth what church schools in Ohio should do today.

___________________

Pastor Randall Townsend
President, Christian Schools of Ohio
1944 Meriline Avenue
Dayton, OH 45420

Re: Registration of non-chartered, non-tax supported schools, pursuant to Ohio Administrative Code Section 3301-35-08

Dear Pastor Townsend:

This letter responds to your inquiries concerning the above-reference registration process. As you are aware, Ohio Administrative Code ("O.A.C.") Section 3301-35-08 provides that a school, "which is not chartered or seeking a charter from the state board of education because of truly held religious beliefs, shall annually certify in a report to the parents of its pupils that the school meets Ohio minimum standards for non-chartered, non-tax supported schools...." The applicable minimum standards set forth in subsections (A) - (H) of O.A.C. Section 3301-35-08 are the following:

(A) School Year. The school shall be open for instruction with pupils in attendance for not less than one hundred eighty-two days each school year acccording to section 3313.48 of the Revised Code.

(B) School day. The school day for pupils in grades one through twelve shall be no less than five hours exclusive of the noon recess according to section 3313.48 of the Revised Code.

(C) Pupil Attendance. Pupil attendance shall be reported to facilitate administration of laws relating to compulsory education and the employment of minors. Parents shall be responsible for reporting their child's school enrollment or withdrawal. An individual in charge of the non-chartered, non-tax supported school may, as a matter of convenience, provide a report for the parent.

(1) The attendance report shall include the name, age, and place of residence of each pupil below eighteen years of age.

(2) The report shall be made to the treasurer of the board of education of the city, exempted village, or local school district in which the pupil resides.

(3) The report shall be made within the first two weeks of the beginning of each school year. In the case of pupil withdrawal or entrance during the school year, notice shall be given to the treasurer of the appropriate board(s) of education. Such notice shall be given withing the first week of the next school month.

(D) Teacher and administrator qualificaitons. Teachers and administrators shall have received a bachelor's degree or the equivalent therof from a recognized college or university.

(E) Courses of study. Each non-chartered, non-tax supported school shall have courses of study for the following subjects:

(1) Language arts;

(2) Geography, the history of the United States and Ohio, and national, state, and local government;

(3) Mathematics;

(4) Science;

(5) Health;

(6) Physical education;

(7) The fine arts, including music;

(8) First aid, safety, and fire prevention;

(9) Other subjects as prescribed by the non-chartered, non-tax supported school.

(F) Public promotion. Each non-chartered, non-tax suported school shall follow regular procedures for promotion from grade to grade of pupils who have met the school's educational requirements.

(G) Pupil health and safety. Each non-chartered, non-tax supported school shall comply with state and local health, fire, and safety laws.

(H) Pupils attending a non-chartered, non-tax supported school are not entitled to pupil transportation as provided pursuant to section 3327.01 of the Revised Code, and pupils attending a non-chartered, non-tax supported school are not entitled to auxiliary services as provided pursuant to section 3317.06 of the Revised Code.

O.A.C. Section 3301-35-08 further provides that "a copy of said report shall be filed with the Ohio department of education on or before the thirtieth of September of each year." Please be advised that, in accordance with O.A.C. Section 3301-35-08, the Ohio Department of Education ("ODE") will accept from a school desiring to be registered as an "08" school a copy of a certification made by the school in a report to parents that the school meets the above-referenced Ohio minimum standards.

In order for a school to properly "certify" in a report to parents that the school meets the applicable minimum standards, said report must be signed by the individual making such certification, and the full name of said individual must be identifiable (i.e., typed beneath the signature). Accordingly, a school desiring to be registered as an "08 school" for the 2006-2007 school year should, on or before September 30th, 2006, file with ODE a copy of its signed, annual certification to parents.

To properly register as an "08 school," ODE also needs the name of the school, it address, its telephone number (a P.O. Box will not serve as an address), and the school district in which the school is located. This information is required so that ODE and local public school districts can comply with the "Child Find" obligations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004.

Certifications should be sent to the attention of Dr. Janet Schilk, Director, Office of Educational Reform, 25 South Front Street, Mail Stop 401, Columbus, Ohio 43215. The facsimile number for the Office of Educational Reform is (614) 995-3869. If you have any further questions, please contact me at (614) 466-4705.

Very truly your,

Matthew J. DeTemple
Chief Legal Counsel


___________________

WHAT CHURCH SCHOOLS IN OHIO SHOULD DO TODAY

The following matters should be addressed today.

1. REVISED LETTER. Assuming that the church has already filed its annual letter with the state, the church school should revise its annual letter as described below, give a copy of the revised letter to your parents, and fax a copy of the revised letter to Dr. Janet Schilk at 614-995-3869.

2. DUE DATE. The revised letter is due on September 30, 2006. Because of the time period in which the department finally changed its position, the due date for filing the revised letter has been extended by the department to October 6, 2006.

3. SIGNED AND CERTIFIED. The Minimum Standards require that the church school "annually certify in a report to the parents of its pupils that the school meets Ohio minimum standards for non-chartered, non-tax supported schools cited in paragraphs (A) to (H) of this rule." Accordingly, I suggest that you make a slight modification in your annual letter's opening paragraph, as follows:

"Our school, which is not chartered or seeking a charter from the State Board of Education because of truly held religious beliefs, hereby certifies in this report to the parents of its pupils that the school meets Ohio minimum standards for non-chartered, non-tax supported schools cited in paragraphs (A) to (H) of this rule, as follows:"

In addition, I recommend that the administrator sign his full name next to where his typed name appears in the heading of this letter.

4. NAME, ADDRESS, AND SCHOOL DISTRICT. LLM has always recommended that the name and address of the school appear on the annual report. In his September 27, 2006, letter, Attorney DeTemple requests, for the department's convenience, that the church school also list "the school district in which the school is located." Since this information could already be determined by the school's address, I see no problem honoring such a request.

I would suggest that the annual report include a new sentence concluding the letter, phrased as follows: "As our school address indicates, our school is located in the _________ school district."


Please call me at 440-964-0236 if you have any questions or problems with respect to this administrative resolution. We wish to thank Pastors Townsend, Hamblen, and Folger, as well as Rev. Daniel Whisner of Ohio Legislative Watch, for their faithful stand in this difficult matter. As we look forward to a prosperous school year, we all give God all the honor and glory.

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