by Debbie Schwarzer, HSC Legal Team
Who needs a work permit? Every child in California who is subject to compulsory education and who wishes to work (other than in babysitting and similar occasional jobs, working in a family business and a few other exempt categories) needs a work permit.
Basically, that means that any child who is under 18 and who has not yet graduated from high school or passed the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam) needs one.
Who issues work permits? If your child is enrolled in a public school program (ISP or charter school), the school is responsible for handling work permits. Follow their procedures. If your child is in a private school satellite program (PSP), the PSP will issue the permit. In both of those cases, the administrator at the school who handles the issuance of work permits will be the one to decide if your child meets the school's requirements.
If you've formed your own private school, your school can now issue a work permit if it follows the procedures described in this article. The law was changed effective January 2010 so that independently homeschooled children do not necessarily need to go to their local public high school to get a permit, thus correcting a situation where local officials who didn't care for homeschoolers could refuse to issue permits to them.
How does a small, private school issue a work permit?
- Starting the process. Since work permits can't be issued as blanks, but are only issued for jobs with specific employers, the process of getting a work permit really starts when a student finds an employer who's interested in giving the student a job. Once that employer is identified, the student needs to have California Department of Education (CDE) Form B1-1, which is called the Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit", filled out by the student, the potential employer and by the student's parents. This completed form then goes to the administrator at the student's school who issues work permits.
- Parents can't issue them to their own children. Not surprisingly, the legislature was not keen on having parents issue work permits to their own children, and the law specifically prohibits this. If your child wants a work permit, you will need to appoint an administrator for your school other than a parent of the student who has the ability to comply with the requirements, which are not trivial. See the paragraphs about Self-Certification Requirement" below. We expect that people will find friends or knowledgeable homeschoolers in their area who will be willing to take on this role for them. These work experience" administrators do NOT need to be identified by name in the private school's annual affidavit (only a few school administrators are listed by name, and a work experience" position isn't one of them), do NOT need to be paid, and they can be added to the school staff at any time. Please keep in mind that if they are paid and have contact with your student, you should get a criminal records summary for them under Section 44237 of the Education Code.
- Self-certification requirement. The legislature also wanted to make sure that anyone issuing a work permit knows what they're doing, since there are a number of different laws (labor, education, health and safety, wage and hour) that come into play. The administrators at public high schools who do this often coordinate all of the school's vocational educational programs and are very knowledgeable about these state laws. In some cases, the public schools delegate the power to grant permits to administrators at large private schools, but they only do so if they think that the private school person also knows the laws. Given the change in the law in 2009 to let any private school issue a permit, the CDE now requires that any private school administrator who issues work permits certify in writing that he or she understands all of these laws.
The CDE publishes a document called The Work Permit Handbook", and the handbook explains the process for issuing permits and reprints a number of statutes and regulations. The current version of this Handbook is available by contacting Kimberly B. Born by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your administrator will need to print and sign the CDE Form B1-8 called Statement of Intent for Self-Certification.
If you don't believe you can find someone to act in this role for your school, then your child will need to get a work permit from the superintendent of the district in which you reside or from a credentialed work experience teacher who has been given authority by the district to issue work permits. If you live in an area not covered by a school district, permits would need to be obtained from the type of teacher just mentioned or from the county superintendent.
- Issuing the work permit. Once your private school administrator feels ready, he or she will fill out the CDE Form B1-4, called the Permit to Employ and Work". The student receives an original copy, which should be given to the employer. The administrator is required, within 30 days of the issuance of the permit, to forward a copy of all of the work permit forms (B1-1, B1-4 and B1-8) for each permit issued by the private school to the superintendent of the district in which the private school is located, as well as keep copies for the school files. We don't know whether the superintendent wants to get multiple copies of the B1-8 form for the same administrator, but to be safe it should be sent.
Although the laws don't state this, the intent is that work permits are only issued to students if a job would not greatly interfere with their studies. If a student is really struggling academically, the administrator in a public school responsible for issuing permits would probably be reluctant to issue a permit in that case, other than for family hardship (there are special rules for these situations). It is the school's responsibility to ensure that its students are learning what they need to. The district superintendent doesn't have the right to approve" work permits, but does have the right to revoke one if he or she believes that the permit was issued in violation of law.
- Permitted Work Hours. Another area where the law has changed has to do with the number of hours that students are permitted to work. For both public and private schools, younger students can work fewer hours than older students, but the rules for how these hours are calculated are now different for students at public and private schools. For public school students (including students enrolled in district ISPs and in charters), the permitted hours are listed in the Handbook, and you will see a number of references to how many hours can worked in a week when the public schools are in session. Private schools, of course, aren't required to follow the public school calendar, and there are times when a public school is in session but a private school isn't, or vice versa. The 2009 change to the law now states that the hours that a student may work are linked to the calendar for the school which the student attends. Accordingly, your student may be able to work when a public school student could not, such as if your school takes a month off, or is only in session until 1 p.m., etc. If your school has a student who wants or needs to work a great deal, however, you might wish to consider having the student take the CHSPE so that a work permit is no longer required. The Handbook currently distributed by the CDE (the 2009 version) has not been updated to reflect this change in the law, so please look at the summary to see the places where the Handbook isn't accurate and to learn how to find the correct information.
What if I have a question? None of the state homeschool groups has much experience yet with the change in the law allowing private schools to issue permits. One parent who has issued a permit for his child had these words of advice:
- Be friendly, polite and professional with all state and local education officials. Assume that their intention is to act in the spirit of the new law and make it easier to obtain a work permit for a minor who is not schooled in the public system.
- Don't ever mention the words "homeschool, homeschooler or homeschooled"!
These are all good points to remember for work permit situations and for any other dealings with the government.
If you have questions, you can try posting them to the HSC email discussion list (to subscribe send a blank email to CA-Homeschooling-HSCemail@example.com). Maybe some other parent has been there or done that and can give you advice. You're also welcome to write to the legal team using the email contact form.