WHAT ABOUT BEFORE OCTOBER 1st OR AFTER OCTOBER 15th?
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.