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North Carolina
Updated January 28, 2013

State Regulation

State Regulation of Private and Home Schools — Map
Note this is a stand-alone state chapter.
State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.


Private Schools

Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval

  • Accreditation is optional.
    • Qualified nonpublic schools shall have one or more of the following characteristics: 1) accredited by the State Board of Education; 2) accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; 3) active members of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools; and/or 4) schools that receive no funding from the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555.
    • The State Board of Education ceased accrediting schools on June 30, 2000. All school accreditation is now done by accrediting organizations which are independent of direct governmental control.
  • Registration is mandatory.
    • A new school must send to a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina a notice of intent to operate, name and address of the school, and name of the school's owner and chief administrator. Similarly, a school that is closing must notify a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina upon termination of the school. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552, 553 and N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-560, 561.
  • Licensing has no requirements.
  • Approval is optional.
    • Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools that comply with the provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-547 through 562 are not subject to any other educational provisions except requirements regarding fire, safety, sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-554, 562. (Although N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-378 refers to "approved nonpublic schools," according to the North Carolina Department of Education, in practice, nonpublic schools are no longer approved by the Department.) No approval of a nonpublic school has taken place since 1979. In May of 1979, the North Carolina General Assembly transferred legal oversight of nonpublic schools from the State Board of Education and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to the Office of the Governor.

Teacher Certification

  • Teacher certification is not required of nonpublic schools.

Length of School Year and Days

  • Children in North Carolina may attend private church schools or schools of religious charter under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 et seq., or nonpublic schools that qualify under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555 et seq. Delconte v. State, 329 S.E.2d 636 (1985).
  • Attendance at a private church school or school of religious charter satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-548.
  • Attendance at a qualified nonpublic school satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-556.
  • To satisfy the compulsory attendance statute, attendance at an approved nonpublic school must be for a period equal to the time the local public school is in session. The state’s private school attendance statute defines this as “a school term of at least nine calendar months on a regular schedule excluding reasonable holidays and vacations.” North Carolina’s Division of Non-Public Education, within the North Carolina Department of Administration, advises that the school term have at least 180 instructional days per year with typical school days of at least five and one-half hours in length and typical class periods of 50 minutes for grades nine through twelve. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-378 and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C 548.

Curriculum

  • Private school students may enroll in driver education programs offered by the state superintendent of public instruction at local public high schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-88.1.
  • There are no curriculum requirements for nonpublic schools; however, nationally standardized testing in certain subject areas is mandated. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C- 549 and Gen. Stat. §115C-557. See Testing.

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Recordkeeping and Reports

  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each student. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 556.
  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools must make and maintain student nationally standardized test result records every year for each student enrolled in grades three, six, nine, and eleven for at least one year and make them available for annual inspection in the school’s office by the duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-549, 550, 557 and 558.
  • Qualified nonpublic schools must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the state designated by the governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-560(a), 561.
  • Qualified nonpublic schools that comply with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555 et seq., are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-562.
  • When private church schools and schools of religious charter terminate operation, the schools must also notify the state's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-560(b), 561.
  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the state designated by the governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552(a), 553.
  • Private schools operated by any church or other organized religious group that complies with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 et seq. are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-554.
  • When qualified nonpublic schools terminate operation, the schools must also notify the state's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-552(b), 553.
  • Information acquired by a certified private school counselor through student counseling is privileged unless the student waives the privilege or a judge compels disclosure. N.C. Gen. Stat. §8-53.4.

Health and Safety Requirements

  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to the state requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-554, 562.
  • No child may attend a K–12 private or religious school unless a certificate of immunization is presented to the school or the child has received a medical or religious exemption. If a certification of immunization is not presented on the first day of classes, the principal must present a notice of deficiency to the parent or guardian. The parent or guardian has 30 days from the first day of the child’s attendance in school to obtain the required immunizations and additional days if needed upon certification of a physician. Upon termination of the 30 days or the extended period, the principal shall not permit the child to attend the school unless the child has been immunized or has obtained the necessary exemption. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§130A-155, 156, 157.
  • Children entering kindergarten in private church schools, schools of religious charter, or qualified nonpublic schools are exempt from the state's statutory requirement for health assessments. Note: Kindergarten students enrolled in approved nonpublic schools must receive a health assessment prior to admission. The assessment must include a medical history and physical examination with screening for vision and hearing, and if appropriate, testing for anemia and tuberculosis. N.C. Gen. Stat. §130A-440.
  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to reasonable fire, health, and safety inspections by state, county, and municipal authorities as required by law. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 554, 556, 562.
  • Private schools must conduct at least one fire drill every month during the regular school session in each building where children are assembled. The commissioner of insurance, the superintendent of public instruction, and the State Board of Education are under a duty to provide printed instructions for properly conducting fire drills. Oct. 9 of every year is set aside as Fire Prevention Day. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§58-79-35.
  • Private schools must provide eye protective devices free of charge to students and teachers participating in shop or laboratory classes involving hazardous materials as defined by statute. Students and teachers are required to wear the devices at all times when participating in such a program. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-166.
  • The Board of Transportation or local authorities may set lower speed limits for areas adjacent to private or parochial schools to be enforced on days when schools are in session. N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-141.1
  • The North Carolina Department of Justice may provide a criminal record check to nonpublic school employers for school employees and/or applicants if the individual consents to a record check. The department will charge a reasonable fee not to exceed the actual cost of locating, editing, researching, and retrieving the information. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§114-19.2(b), (c).
  • Any person who wantonly and willfully sets fire to a private school or attempts to set fire to a private school commits a felony. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§14-60, 67.
  • It is illegal to carry any gun, rifle, pistol, dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine, powerful explosive, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switch-blade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles, or any other weapon of like kind on private school property unless for instructional or sanctioned ceremonial purposes. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-269.2.
  • North Carolina's criminal law makes it a misdemeanor to engage in disorderly conduct by disrupting the teaching of students at any private educational institution. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-288.4.

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Transportation

  • Students with special needs may be transported by public school buses to and from the nearest appropriate private school having a special education program approved by the State Board of Education if the child is publicly placed by the state or local school administrative unit. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115c-242(1). See Special Education, below.

Textbooks

  • State law authorizes the State Board of Education or any other state agency to provide instructional materials, including library resources and textbooks, purchased with federal funding of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 for the use of children and teachers in private elementary and secondary schools as required by acts of Congress. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-409(b).

Testing

  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grades three, six, and nine at least once each school year. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. The results of the test must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-549, 553, 557, 174.
  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grade eleven to measure competencies in the verbal and quantitative areas. The school must establish a minimum score for graduation. Test results must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-550, 558, 174.
  • Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools may participate voluntarily in high school competency testing and statewide testing programs at the school’s expense. However, since the standardized tests used by the Public Schools of North Carolina are state standardized (rather than nationally standardized), they do not satisfy the annual nationally standardized testing requirement for nonpublic schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-551, 559.
  • The State Board of Education may use tests to assure that graduates of nonpublic schools supervised by the State Board of Education possess the skills and knowledge necessary to function independently and successfully in assuming the responsibilities of citizenship. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-174.11(b). However, no nonpublic schools have been supervised by the State Board of Education since 1979. See Approval under Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval, above.

Special Education

  • A North Carolina local education agency may place a student requiring special education in a private school having a special education program approved by the State Board of Education without cost to the parents. The private schools must meet standards that apply to state and local education agencies and secure the rights the students would have if served by the state or local education agency. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-111.2. See Transportation, above.

Nursing and Health

  • There is no state policy at this time.

Technology

  • There is no state policy at this time.

Professional Development

  • There is no state policy at this time.

Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions

  • There is no state policy at this time.

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Tax Exemption

  • The North Carolina Constitution provides that the General Assembly may exempt property held for educational purposes from state and local taxation. N.C. Const. Art. V, Sec. 2.
  • Foods sold not for profit by private school cafeterias within school buildings during the regular school day are exempt from state retail sales tax. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-164.13(26).

Public Aid for Private Education

  • Constitutional Provisions: The North Carolina Constitution provides that the state school fund and the county school funds must be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for free public schools. N.C. Const. Art. IX, Sec. 6, 7.
  • Program for State Tax Credit for Special Education Expenses: Enacted in 2011, this tax credit provides a tax credit for up to $3,000 per semester per child. Initial eligibility is restricted to children who were part of an individualized education program (IEP) and enrolled at least the preceding two semesters at a public school. Beginning in 2016, this initial eligibility is reduced to one semester. Expenses must be documented. Continuing eligibility depends on a new special education evaluation by the school district every three years. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-151.33.

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Home Schools

  • "A 'home school' means a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two families or households receive academic instruction from parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household." N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-563.

Initial and Renewal Applications

  • Any new home school must send a notice of intent to operate to a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. This "duly authorized representative" is defined by law as the Director of the Division of Non-Public Education. Notice must be provided when the home school is terminated. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552(b); 560(b), 563(b).
  • Home schools elect to operate as either a private church school or school of religious charter, or a qualified nonpublic school and must then meet the requirements for that type of school. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 through §115C-554 or §115C-547 through §115C-562.
  • Building inspections are waived though if the school meets in a private residence. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-564.

Curriculum and Instruction

  • The person providing instruction in the homeschool must hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-564.
  • A home school must operate for a nine calendar month school term. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 556.
  • Nonpublic school students have access to Learn and Earn On-Line courses by directly registering through the established higher education organization's course registration process.

Assessment and Diplomas

  • Any new school may, on a voluntary basis, participate in any state-operated or -sponsored program that would otherwise be available to such school, including but not limited to the high school competency testing and statewide testing programs. However, since the standardized tests used by the Public Schools of North Carolina are state standardized (rather than nationally standardized), they do not satisfy the annual nationally standardized testing requirement for homeschools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-551; 559.
  • Students attending a home school must be tested academically once each year through a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics for students and verbal and quantitative areas for grade 11 students. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-174, 550, 558, 563(a), 564.

Health

  • Home schools that comply with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-563 et seq. are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-565.
  • Home schools must maintain records to ensure that students are immunized. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548; 556.

Special Education Tax Credit

  • Enacted in 2011, this tax credit provides a tax credit for up to $3,000 per semester per child. Initial eligibility is restricted to children who were part of an individualized education program (IEP) and enrolled at least the preceding two semesters at a public school. Beginning in 2016, this initial eligibility is reduced to one semester. The tax credit can be claimed for special education and related service expenses for a child who is homeschooled. Expenses must be documented. Continuing eligibility depends on a new special education evaluation by the school district every three years. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-151.33.

Public School Access

  • The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) “shall be available at no cost to all students in North Carolina who are enrolled in North Carolina’s public schools …. The Department of Public Instruction shall communicate to local school administrative units all applicable guidelines regarding the enrollment of nonpublic school students in these courses.” Given permission by the local school board, homeschooled students may enroll in NCVPS online courses. The local school board shall collect fees for such enrollments. North Carolina General Assembly, Section 7.20(d).



Contact Information — State and Federal Departments of Education

Updated January 28, 2013

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Last Modified: 01/28/2013