Despite annual reporting, Kentucky does not publicly report information on homeschool participation. Kentucky is one of very few states that explicitly requires homeschool instruction in English.

History

Kentucky is in the southern United States. Homeschooling, legalized in 1948, is a form of private school in Kentucky. The state reinforced a parent’s “prerogative” to choose the education of their child again in 1979. (See Kentucky State Board for Elementary and Secondary Education V. Rudasill, Ky. 589 S.W. 2nd 877 (1979).

Regulation

Parents seeking to homeschool children, ages 6 to 18, are urged by the state to use “extreme caution” when choosing this “often overwhelming challenge.” Those who make it past that admonition do have to meet some requirements before they begin. Parents must notify their school’s superintendent about their intent to homeschool annually and must establish a bona fide school. The state asks that homeschool families maintain a portfolio of student work, course records, and detailed attendance. Attendance information should include the number of hours of instruction and at least 185 days spent teaching. Students must receive instruction in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, history, mathematics, science, and civics, and all instruction must occur in English.

Currently, there is no state policy about access to public school classes or activities for homeschooled students. Nonpublic school students do not have access to extracurricular activities, like sports or courses, provided at public schools. No explicit statute governs access to public school offerings for anyone outside the public school system. Some districts may allow participation, but it is decided on a district-by-district basis. It is uncertain what access there is to special needs services for homeschooled students.

State Data

Kentucky requires all parents file annual information on their homeschool participation with the local school district. However, the state does not publicly report homeschool participation. Researchers with The Washington Post recently collected data from each of over 170 districts in the state. These data indicate that nearly 40,000 students homeschooled in 2021-22.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in Kentucky from 1999 to 2023, with rates increasing from 2017 to 2019, spiking in 2021, and then dropping again in 2022.

While the lack of official data is problematic when students are required to file attendance, U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 7% of Kentucky families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 but decreased to 6.5% by the fall of 2020. Kentucky was one of only a few states to experience a decrease during this time. These percentages reflect family participation. Student participation would be higher, given that many families have more than one child. The U.S. Census found that, in the 2022 and 2023 school years, an average of 4.4% of all K-12 students in Kentucky were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, about 3.5% of Kentucky’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the 9% of students attending private schools. In 2021-22, 5% of Kentucky’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the 8.5% of students attending private schools. There are no charter schools in Kentucky.

A pie chart showing home, charter, private, and traditional public school percentages in Kentucky in 2021-22

School Choice Context

Students in Kentucky have several educational options. They can attend their zoned public schools, and they have some inter- and intra-district choices as well. While students may attend private schools, there is no public funding available for this option. Further, Kentucky is one of just a few states with no charter schools. They do have some magnet schools. Finally, homeschooling is an option.

Commentary

It is curious that with all the regulatory oversight in Kentucky, the state does not publicly report homeschool information. Reporting the information available would increase transparency and better inform policy. The restricted access to public school offerings like sports, extracurriculars, and courses is off-trend from much of the country. Greater access would benefit more students and remove barriers for families.

Last updated December 2023.