What’s in “The School Starter Checklist”?

 “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese

In the education reform field, including the school choice sphere, there are “a lot of people (who) have ideas,” to Mr. Bushnell’s point. And although those ideas can be quite transformative, it’s only because of who comes next: the doer—those working diligently to serve families.

The School Starter Checklist: Meeting the Private Education Regulations in States with School Choice was created to assist education’s entrepreneurs in their work. As school choice demand continues to grow in states across America, the supply of educational options will need to keep pace.

For those ready to do, the sections below explain how each state’s requirements are presented in The School Starter Checklist. To visit the full report, which is composed of the 24 school choice states and Washington, D.C., click here to get started.


  • Statutes: This link provides users access to all the state laws affecting education.
  • Administrative Code: This link gives users the administrative rules and regulations on education.
  • DOE Website: This link sends users to the homepage of the state’s department of education.


If the state provides vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, and/or individual tax credits and deductions, those programs are listed here along with any pertinent data, including the programs’ enrollment, funding, and governing statutes.


  • Registration: Does a private school have to register with a public entity? If so, when, and what must they report?
  • Length of School Year and Day: How must private schools comply with a state’s compulsory education requirement? Is there a minimum they must meet?
  • State Approval: Sometimes it’s mandatory, sometimes it’s not required, other times it’s even optional. If the former, what must schools do to get a state’s OK?
  • State Accreditation: Typically this is optional. If schools opt to do it, there are certain steps they must take.
  • Licensing: This requirement can cover anything from health and safety to teaching to finances. Most states do not have licensing requirements.
  • Curriculum: Which subjects, if any, are private schools required to teach? One state even has a requirement that schools teach the history of a certain U.S. president.
  • Textbooks: One state allows students, who meet financial eligibility standards, in accredited private schools to get reimbursed for textbooks
  • Testing: Are schools required to administer student assessments? If so, do they have a choice among state or national tests? And do they have to do anything with the results?
  • Teaching Certification: States don’t always require private educators be certified. However, some accrediting associations do.
  • Professional Development: In one state, private schools that receive state accreditation must have training programs for teachers. Another state requires schools provide a minimum two days per year for such development.
  • Transportation: Private schools do have limitations on whom they can hire to drive busses. Some are accompanied with tax or registration fees and a requirement to purchase insurance.
  • Health and Safety Requirements: Documentation of immunization is pretty standard, though some exemptions are allowed. Find out why and what they are.
  • Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions: In two states, the head of public instruction is required to authorize reimbursements to private schools for the government-prompted expenses they incur.
  • Recordkeeping and Reports: Private schools must submit various information to public bodies in accordance with state’s compulsory attendance laws. Find out what that reporting must include.
  • Special Education: If a private school educates a child with special needs at public expense, such schools must provide certain information on that child and his or her education to a public entity.
  • Nursing and Health: These requirements for private schools can include a physical education program, harassment policies, health screenings, regulations on school nurses, and safety drills.
  • Technology: What’s a “provision for the coordination of technology initiatives”? One state requires it for accredited private schools. Another requires private schools with a “distance education program” to meet state rules.
  • and Other requirements: Most often these “other” requirements are related to additional regulations accompanying school choice programs.
Because regulations can be added, modified, or removed every year in legislation, school starters should use each state’s provided links to check up on statutes and administrative codes. School starters also can find the proper contacts in the states’ DOEs along with any necessary forms that must be completed.
For what it’s worth, the entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell recently founded a new effort: BrainRush, an adaptive video game platform meant to make learning “faster, more fun, and more fulfilling.”

Mr. Bushnell sees the service gaps that exist in education and is doing something about it. Surely there are more such doers out there. Should they need any assistance, The School Starter Checklist is here to do exactly that.

This information on state regulations on private and home schools is created and published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office on Nonpublic Education, and is available at .