Washington State Regulations
Updated April 15, 2015 State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- Accreditation: optional
- The Washington State Board of Education must approve private schools before they can seek voluntary accreditation. To complete this process, the state requires that private schools seek third-party accreditors, such as the Association of Educational Services Districts and the Northwest Association of Independent Schools. A complete list of approved accreditors can be found at: http://www.sbe.wa.gov/faq/accreditation.php.
- Registration: no requirements
- Licensing: no requirements
- Approval: mandatory
- Private schools approved to operate in Washington must comply with the state’s compulsory school attendance statute by meeting the minimum requirements pertaining to (1) length of school year/day; (2) teacher certification; (3) safeguarding of permanent records; (4) compliance with reasonable health and fire safety requirements; (5) curriculum; and (6) an up-to-date policy statement regarding the administration and operation of the school. Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 28A.195.010 and 28A.225.010(1)(a).
- The state board of education grants private school approval pursuant to RCW 28A.305.130.
- The state board of education denies approval to any private school engaging in a policy of racial segregation or discrimination. RCW 28A.195.040.
- By statute, the state board of education has one member to represent the private schools, who is elected by the members of the boards of directors of approved private schools in the state that meet the minimum requirements of RCW 28A.195.010. RCW 28A.305.011.
- By statute, the superintendent of public instruction must appoint a private school advisory committee with a broad representation of educators, legislators, and various private school groups in Washington. RCW 28A.195.050.
- All classroom teachers must hold appropriate Washington state certification except those teaching religious courses, or courses for which no counterpart exists in the public schools. In exceptional cases, people of unusual competence without certification, as defined in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 180-90-112, may teach so long as a certified person provides general supervision. Annual written statements must be submitted to the superintendent of public instruction that report and explain the circumstances. RCW 28A.195.010(3).
- A teacher whose certification is subject to expiration may renew it subject to the rules in effect at the time of the renewal, unless otherwise stipulated by the provisions of WAC 181-79A-123. WAC 181-79A-127.
Length of School Year and Days
- The minimum school year consists of no less than one hundred eighty school days or the equivalent in annual minimum program hour offerings, i.e. 450 hours in kindergarten, and 1,000 hours in grades one through 12. The state requirements relating to assigned percentages of total program hour offerings prescribed for public schools do not apply to private schools and private sectarian schools. RCW 28A.195.010, introduction, (1), (2).
- The private school curriculum must include instruction of the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, and spelling, and the development of appreciation of art and music, all in sufficient units for meeting state board of education graduation requirements. The administration of each private school is responsible for selecting all books, teaching materials, and the curriculum (except as provided above). RCW 28A.195.010(7),(8) et seq.
- Private schools may voluntarily choose to have their students master Washington’s essential academic learning requirements, take state assessments, and obtain certificates of mastery, but the schools are not required to do so. RCW 28A.195.010.
- By statute, Washington recognizes the rights of private schools to teach their religious beliefs, allow prayer, teach patriotism, require students to salute the flag, and require the parent/guardian to provide written consent before administering psychological testing or allowing group therapy. RCW 28A.195.020.
- School districts must permit private school students to enroll part-time in the local public schools to take courses or receive ancillary services offered by the public schools and not available in the private school. RCW 28A.150.350 (1)(d).
- Ancillary services include, but are not limited to, counseling, psychological services, testing, remedial instruction, speech and hearing therapy, health-care services, tutorial services, such as home or hospital instruction for students with physical disabilities, and sports activities. WAC 392-134-005.
- The educational service district boards may give private schools access to the depository and distribution centers for films, tapes, charts, maps, and other instructional materials so long as the schools pay the actual costs for services established by the board. RCW 28A.310.180.
Recordkeeping and Reports
- Principals of private schools or superintendents of private school districts must file a statement each year with the superintendent of public instruction certifying that minimum requirements are being met. (See Approval section under Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval.) If the private school notes any deviation from the minimum requirements, the state superintendent will notify the school or school district of the deviations that must be corrected. In case of major deviations, the school may request provisional status for one year to meet the requirements. RCW 28A.195.010 and WAC 180-90-139.
- Private schools must report on the attendance and education work completed for all of their students to the educational service district superintendent by June 30 of each year on forms provided. RCW 28A.195.060.
- Private schools must take appropriate measures to safeguard all permanent records against loss or damage. RCW 28A.195.010 (5).
- Private schools must provide parents access to academic, attendance, and disciplinary records, absent a court order to the contrary. Neither parent may veto the access requested by the other parent. RCW 26.09.225.
- The county governing authority and the development disability board must be eligible to obtain confidential information from private schools to provide requisite services for the developmentally disabled. RCW 71A.14.070.
- Private schools must maintain up-to-date immunization records for each student in attendance. RCW 28A.210.080. See Health and Safety Requirements section of this document.
- Private schools must maintain up-to-date policy statements regarding the administration and operation of the school. The administration of a particular private school is responsible for all decisions of policy, philosophy, school rules, and administration, unless specifically regulated under RCW 28A.195.010. RCW 28A.195.010(8) et seq.
- Private schools may appeal the actions of the state superintendent of public instruction or the state board of education. RCW 28A.195.030.
- High school diplomas granted by approved private schools will meet the requirements of high school graduation if students meet the minimum requirements of graduation commensurate with their year entering 9th grade as listed in WAC 180-51-060, 061 and 066 through 068, not including state assessments and the high school and beyond plan. WAC 180-51-015. Details on year specific graduation requirements can be found at http://www.sbe.wa.gov/graduation.php#.VSUw5vnF98F.
Health and Safety Requirements
- Attendance at private schools is conditional upon proof of either (1) full immunization; (2) the initiation of compliance with a schedule of immunization; or (3) a certificate of exemption. RCW 28A.210.080.
- A private school’s chief administrator, or his designee, must (1) retain each child’s proof of immunization or certification of exemption while the child is enrolled; (2) retain records for three years of each child excluded from school for failure to comply with the immunization requirements; (3) file a written annual report on forms provided by the department of health on the immunization status of students enrolled; and (4) allow agents of the state and local health departments to access the records during business hours as needed to inspect and copy them. RCW 28A.210.110.
- Prior to excluding a child, the private school must provide written notice to the parent/guardian concerning (1) the immunization requirements; (2) prohibited attendance until compliance; (3) procedural due process rights as required by the state; and (4) immunization services available through the local health department and other public agencies. RCW 28A.210.120.
- State grants awarded to school districts for substance abuse awareness programs for drug and alcohol abuse prevention and intervention programs may be used to provide services for students enrolled in approved private schools. RCW 28A.170.090 (2).
- By statute, the Washington State Liquor Control Board does not intend to issue or reissue a retail liquor license to a proposed licensee if it would adversely affect an approved private school located within 500 feet of the business. If a license is issued, the board will inform the private school of the reasons for doing so. RCW 66.24.010(9).
- Persons intentionally manufacturing, selling, delivering, or possessing a controlled substance to a person in a school, school bus, within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop, or within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of the school grounds may receive up to twice the usual fines and imprisonment. RCW 69.50.435.
- The physical facilities of a private school must be adequate to meet the requirements of the program(s) the school offers. Each school building must meet reasonable health and fire safety requirements. RCW 28A.195.010(6).
- It is a criminal act in Washington to threaten to bomb or otherwise injure any private school, or to communicate any information concerning such a threat knowing the information is false and with the intent to cause alarm. RCW 9.61.160.
- The superintendent of public instruction, through a superintendent of schools of any school district or an office or board performing such functions, may appoint a school patrol from among the student body of a private school to help its students cross public highways. RCW 46.61.385.
- Local school district boards may jointly make purchases with private schools for supplies, equipment, and services, including but not limited to school bus maintenance services, as long as the private schools pay in advance or provide a surety bond for their proportionate share of the costs involved. RCW 28A.320.080.
- Transportation between a part-time public school student’s school and a private school that he/she attends for certain ancillary classes may not be provided at the public school district’s expense unless the transportation is connected with field trips or special events. The public school district also may cover the transportation expenses if necessary as a condition to receiving federal funds or if federal funds cover the costs. WAC 392-134-020.
- Surplus texts and other education aids are available to private schools. RCW 28A.335.180.
- Private schools have the same rights as any person or other entity to submit bids for the rental, lease, or sale of surplus real property owned by the local school districts. RCW 28A.335.040 and 28A.335.120.
- The state board of education must not require private school students to meet the student learning goals, obtain a certificate of academic achievement or a certificate of individual achievement to graduate from high school, master the essential academic learning requirements, or be assessed pursuant to RCW 28A.655.061. However, private schools may choose to allow their students to, on a voluntary basis, master these essential academic learning requirements, take the assessments, and obtain a certificate of academic achievement or a certificate of individual achievement. RCW 28A.195.010.
- In addition to services to private school students who are unilaterally enrolled by their parents, private school students and homeschooled students are entitled to enroll part-time in their resident public school district and receive special education and related services for which they are enrolled, pursuant to WAC 392-134. WAC 392-172A-04000, 04005, 04010, and 04015, and 392-172A-04075.
- Courses, ancillary services, and any combination of course and ancillary services must be provided to part-time public school students in any private sectarian site or facility. WAC 392-134-020.
Nursing and Health
- Private K–12 schools may administer oral medication to students but are not required to do so. If a private school administers medication, the school must adopt policies, under the advice of a licensed physician or nurse, addressing (1) the designated responsible employees; (2) parental requests and instructions; (3) in the case of medication for more than 15 consecutive school days, a dentist’s or physician’s request and instructions; (4) identification of medicine; (5) safekeeping of medicine; and (6) maintaining records of the administration of medication. Parental and dentist or other physician requests must be in writing and current. Employees administering medication must be trained by a professional and take precautions to determine that the medication appears to be in its original container and properly labeled. RCW 28A.210.260.
- Private school employees administering oral medication to a student in compliance with state requirements are not liable in any criminal action or civil action for damages. The administration of oral medication may be discontinued without liability provided that the school’s chief administrator or his or her designee has given notice in advance of the date of discontinuance to the parent/guardian. RCW 28A.210.270.
- Private schools may provide for, but are not required to provide for, the catheterization of students without liability provided they comply with requirements adopted by the state nursing care quality assurance commission, the school’s own written policies, and state requirements including those in RCW 41.56 and 41.59. RCW 28A.210.280, 290, 295.
- No state policy pertaining to technology currently exists.
- A valid professional certificate may be renewed for additional five-year periods by completing 150 continuing education credit hours as defined in WAC 181-85 or by completing the professional growth plan as defined in WAC 181-79A-030. As of Sept, 1, 2014, four professional growth plans developed annually during the period in which the certificate is valid and in collaboration with the professional growth team as defined in WAC 181-79A-030 are required for renewal. WAC 181-79A-251(2).
- An individualized professional growth plan for teachers is the document identifying the specific competencies, knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to meet the standards at “career level” benchmarks, as published by the professional educator standards board. WAC 181-79A-030(15)(a).
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- No state policy pertaining to reimbursement for performing state and local functions currently exists.
- To qualify for exempt tax status for real or personal property, private schools must file an initial application on or before March 31 with the Washington State Department of Revenue. To requalify, applicants must file an annual renewal application on or before March 31. Schools must annually file an affidavit on prescribed forms certifying the exempt status of the property. When a school acquires real property qualified for the exemption or converts real property to exempt status, the school must file an initial application for the property within 60 days, or bear a late filing penalty. RCW 84.36.815.
- Computer software is specifically exempt from property taxation by statute. RCW 84.36.600.
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: “All schools maintained or supported wholly or in part by the public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence.” Wash. Const. art. IX, §4 “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment….” Wash. Const. art. I, §11.
- Programs for financial assistance for attendance at private schools: There are no such programs at this time.
Initial and Renewal Applications
- Each parent whose child is receiving home-based instruction must file annually a signed declaration of intent to home school his or her child, including specifying whether a certified person will be supervising the instruction. This declaration is due by Sept. 15, or within two weeks of the beginning of any public school quarter, trimester, or semester, with the superintendent of the public school district in which the student resides. The parent as well must ensure that test scores or annual academic progress assessments and immunization records are forwarded to any public or private school to which the student may later transfer. RCW 28A.200.010.
Curriculum and Instruction
- Instruction is considered 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, and spelling, and the development of an appreciation of art and music. Instruction must be provided for a number of hours equivalent to the total number of hours required annually in an approved private school, i.e. 450 hours in kindergarten, and 1,000 hours in grades one through 12. RCW 28A.225.010(4).
- The legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experimental than instruction normally provided in a classroom setting. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities must be liberally construed. RCW 28A.225.010 (5).
- Parents are responsible for all decisions relating to the philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, as well as methods, timing and location, in providing or evaluating home-based instruction, except for matters specifically referred to in RCW 28A.200.020.
- The instruction must be provided by the parent who is instructing only his or her own child and supervised by a certificated person; or provided by the parent who is instructing only his or her own child and who has earned either 45 college-level credit hours awarded in quarters or its equivalent in semester hours, or has completed a course in home-based instruction at a postsecondary institution or vocational-technical institute; or provided by a parent who is deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the school district in which the child resides. RCW 28A.225.010(4).
- An approved private school may operate an extension program for parents, guardians, or persons having legal custody of a child to teach children in their custody. RCW 28A.195.010(4).
Assessment and Diplomas
- Each parent whose child is receiving home-based instruction is responsible for ensuring that a qualified individual annually administers to the child a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education; or that an annual assessment of the child’s academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education. If the annual test or assessments results provide evidence that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent must make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency. RCW 28A.200.010.
- Home school diplomas granted to homeschooled students will meet the requirements of high school graduation if students meet the minimum requirements of graduation commensurate with their year entering 9th grade as listed in WAC 180-51-060, 061 and 066 through 068, not including state assessments and the high school and beyond plan. WAC 180-51-015 and RCW 28A.230.090. Details on year specific graduation requirements can be found at http://www.sbe.wa.gov/graduation.php#.VSUw5vnF98F.
Public School Access
- A student who is receiving home-based instruction under RCW 28A.225.010 is eligible to take courses at or receive ancillary services or both tuition-free from the local school district. Ancillary services include, but are not limited to counseling, psychological services, testing, remedial instruction, speech and hearing therapy, health-care services, tutorial services such as home or hospital instruction for students with physical disabilities, and sports activities. RCW 28A.150.350; WAC 392-134-005; and 392-134-010.
Information and Legislative
- Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction: Office of Private Education
- Washington State’s Laws Regulating Home-Based Instruction
- Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction: Home Based Instruction Regulations
- Revised Code of Washington
- Washington Administrative Code
Contact Information – State and Federal Departments of Education
Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
P.O. Box 47200
600 Washington Street S.E.
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Phone: (360) 725-6000
Fax: (360) 753-6712
TTY: (360) 664-3631
U.S. Department of Education, Washington
Updated April 15, 2015