FILING A PSA
FILING DURING THE FILING WINDOW (OCT 1ST-15TH)
The Private School Affidavit (PSA) is required to be filed by every private school in California between October 1st and 15th of each year. Homeschoolers establishing their own private school should gather the items required to be kept in their files and file the PSA during the filing period.
UPDATE AS OF 6/2023: The PSA is available on the CDE website all school year long except for June 20-July 31 for those who begin homeschooling after the October filing period. Always unenroll from the current school first. The filing period for established schools begins August 1 and should be completed before October 15. File yearly.
Section 33190 of the Education Code requires that each private school file an affidavit containing specified information on a yearly basis, in the period between October 1 and October 15 for the then-current school year. Section 48224 of the Education Code states that a child is exempt from the compulsory attendance laws if enrolled in and attending a full-time private day school that has complied with Section 33190, so we believe that filing the affidavit on a timely basis is very important. Accordingly, existing private schools, as well as new schools formed at the beginning of a school year, should file that October and each October thereafter for as long as the school is operating. A new school should prepare all of the required documentation as described above before filing the affidavit.
We believe that the online version is much simpler and recommend that the school go online to fill out this form. Affidavits are accessed online at the Department of Education website and completed there. The current URL is http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/affidavit.asp. Please be aware that all of the fields indicated as required must be completed (for instance, you cannot file with "0" students). There are several items that are not required (such as e-mail address); it is pretty clear on the system which are required and which are not.
All private schools, regardless of the number of students, can file online. As of this writing, schools with six or more students are given a password and can access their affidavit from the previous year and make changes to the content if necessary. Those with fewer than six students can file online, but cannot access their prior year's affidavit. For these schools, the affidavit is completed in full each year.
Note that signed paper copies of the affidavit are no longer mailed to the CDE after filing online. Now all schools, as part of completing the affidavit online, are signing the affidavit using an "electronic signature." The CDE must be comfortable now that an electronic signature has the same legal force and effect as an ink one (see below about discussion on perjury). As soon as the CDE receives the submitted online affidavit, it will then put the information entered into the CDE website into its database for access by school districts throughout the state. The procedures for filing the affidavit are constantly changing. For the most updated information, check the legal section of this website or the California Department of Education website (http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/ ).
When you "sign" the affidavit by filing electronically, you are doing so under penalty of perjury. By hitting the "submit" button, you are attesting under oath that all the statements in the affidavit are true (for instance, that you are maintaining all of the required records and that the child(ren) and not enrolled in any other full-time school). You should take this seriously. It is possible that the state could prosecute someone for perjury for clearly being untruthful on the affidavit. Everyone filing online will receive a confirmation number, and those providing an email address will receive an email confirming that the filing was made successfully. If you do not provide an email address, you will not receive any other kind of acknowledgment from the CDE, other than the confirmation number, that they have received your school's affidavit. You should, for this reason, make sure to print out a copy of your completed affidavit before ending your session, or save it as a web page that can be opened and printed later.
The fact that the affidavits are filed after the school year typically starts is not a problem. No private school can file before October 1, and the state does not claim that every private school student is truant between mid-August and October 1. If you are contacted after the typical school year begins but before October by anyone who has a right to see your school's affidavit, you should explain that no private school can file an affidavit before October 1. You can also offer to show them your affidavit from the prior year, or, if you did not file in the prior year, offer to mail them a copy when you can (after you've filed).
As long as you follow the private school statutory requirements, your school is a legal private school. Fill out the private school affidavit carefully and accurately, return it in a timely manner, and keep a copy of it with the records listed above. If you have questions about filling out the private school affidavit, see our line by line instructions in English or in Spanish or contact the legal team.
Some people have expressed concern that filing online will increase the chance that truancy officers will have access to their information and that they will be targeted for harassment for having a home-based private school. We believe exactly the opposite to be true and strongly encourage everyone to use the online system if possible. Some have also expressed concern that the online affidavit asks for information not strictly required by law. We are also not concerned about this. The paper affidavits filed before the 2002-2003 school year also asked for this information. Also, the information requested (phone number, the school district where the private school is located) is immaterial, and objecting to providing it would make a school stand out. Those with strong philosophical opinions against filing online still need to file something called a "Statement in Lieu of an Affidavit." The "Statement" must include all the information from Calif. Education Code §331910. It should also state, "I declare under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the State of California, that all information contained in this "Statement in Lieu of a Private School Affidavit" is true and correct." Please be aware that all information provided on the affidavit is public whether it if filed online or on paper.
FILING OUTSIDE OF THE FILING WINDOW
BEFORE OCTOBER 1st
Your child is enrolled and legally exempt from public school attendance as soon as you decide you have started your own private school. The school doesn't begin when you file the PSA.
Even if schools in your area start before October 1st, you do not need to file the affidavit until the filing period of October 1st through 15th. The PSA is a statement about your school on that one day that you file. The PSA is not the way your school becomes official - your school is official and legal the minute you say it is. The PSA is a requirement that all private schools must adhere to. In other words, first, you establish your school (at whatever date you want to start) and then, because you have an established school, you are required to file the PSA during the filing period.
The PSA doesn't normally become available until October 1st, so there is no way to file it early. You could file one for the previous school year if the California Department still has it available on their website, but it is usually taken down from the website sometime during the summer.
AFTER OCTOBER 15th
Section 33190 clearly provides that the affidavit is to be filed between October 1 and October 15 for a given school year. No one should try to file early.
The CDE believes that the filing of an affidavit is a ministerial thing only; it doesn't create or validate the school. We agree with this. A CDE representative has also said that the only purpose of the affidavit is to allow them to compile a private school directory, and by stating that they don't want any affidavits after the end of the calendar year, we can guess that this is the cutoff for schools that will be in the directory. We don't agree with the view that the affidavit is only for the directory, as the Education Code also requires private school operators to promise under penalty of perjury that they're following the private school laws. Signing and filing the affidavit accomplishes this as well.
We have asked the CDE if they agree that new schools can be formed after October 15, and, if so, when these schools should file their affidavits. The CDE told us that they believe that new private schools are allowed to be formed after October 15. They said, however, that these new schools should not file an affidavit for that school year, but should just wait until the following fall to file.
We agree, strictly speaking, that this is correct. However, because the CDE isn't the only government agency that has a reason to think about whether a particular private school is "legal," we are a little worried that some other government official might interpret the requirements of Section 33190 differently. For example, an attendance officer might come to someone's door inquiring whether a particular child is attending a legal school and not truant. That official has the right to see certain papers (see discussion at Section C of Special Situations). One of those papers is the filed affidavit. If the school was formed after October 15 of a school year and hadn't filed an affidavit, it could certainly explain to the officer how the CDE interprets a new school's obligations. But that officer might look at Section 33190 and Section 48224 and conclude that the school isn't legal because it hasn't filed an affidavit. We doubt that a supervisor or a court would agree with the officer's conclusion, but any parents wanting to shut down the possibility of ever having this argument might want to think about filing an affidavit anyway.
The CDE has said, in various years, that it won't "accept" filings after January 1. In early 2005, they disabled the online filing option after that date but put it back up when a number of people and groups complained. We think they came to understand that people can file affidavits at any time, even if it is outside the October window. We believe that the CDE does not have the authority to "accept" affidavits (although they sometimes reject them for incompleteness), and so we think that schools are still entitled to send them. If you are trying to file after October 15 and find that the online filing system isn't working, please let us know.