General regulations

  • Accreditation and approval in the state of California is optional, but nonpublic, nonsectarian special education schools can enroll public school students and therefore must be certified by the state as a special education provider. All private schools must also file with the state annually.

  • The California Department of Education has assembled a page of detailed requirements for private schools.

  • The US Office of Innovation & Improvement has assembled a summary of regulations for private schools operating in California

  • California requires home schooling be completed by a licensed tutor, or that students attend a charter school with an independent study option, or enroll in a private school

  • The  California DOE has no published requirements for school insurance -- consult a professional for guidance in this area.

Education regulations and resources for starting a private school in the state of California

State funding sources & support

California does not provide funding for private education

Curriculum requirements

The state requires that private school students receive instruction in the same branches of study offered in the public school system.

Teacher certification & hiring

Teacher certification is optional for nonpublic schools but must be “persons capable of teaching.”

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Food services / school lunch

In California, school lunch requirements, including funding for schools offering the National School Lunch Program, are managed by the Department of Education.

Length of school year

In order to meet the state’s compulsory school attendance law, students must attend full-time school. The specifics are left up to each individual school.

Recordkeeping and reports

Schools must annually report

  1. all names under which it has done and is doing business;

  2. address of every place of business in California;

  3. location of records and custodian of records;

  4. names and addresses of directors and principal officers;

  5. school enrollment by grades, number of teachers, coeducational or enrollment limited to boys or girls and boarding facilities;

  6. that school attendance records, courses of study, and faculty information records maintained by the school are true and accurate; and

  7. that criminal record summary information for employees has been obtained.

Schools must also maintain attendance records for all students.

Health and safety requirements

Nonpublic schools must follow state fire marshal standards for carbon monoxide monitoring and be inspected for fire hazards each year. All students must be vaccinated and the school must keep a copy of the immunization records. Students must also be instructed in earthquake safety and schools enrolling 50 students or more may be subject to earthquake inspections of the buildings.


County superintendents can choose to provide transportation to private school students if they wish.  


Nonpublic schools are not required to administer standardized tests, nor do they have access to testing systems.

State and regional associations

  • Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC): A world-renowned accrediting association and one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States, works closely with the Office of Overseas Schools under the U.S. Department of State.

  • California Association of Independent Schools: Supports and challenges its schools through an innovative accreditation program that provokes deep reflection, analysis, and institutional commitment to action, as well as through the offering of professional development, relevant research, and informed counsel to the heads and trustees who endeavor to lead those schools effectively.

  • California Association of Private School Organizations is the voice of K-12 private education in California. Its primary mission is to preserve the independence of California’s private schools and to uphold parental choice in education

  • California Private Schools Professional Development: A collaborative effort between California Department of Education and the California Private Schools Advisory Committee. The program provides statewide professional development services using funds provided by Title II, Part A of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

  • CAPSES: Incorporated in 1973 as a California non-profit corporation, CAPSES’ primary mission is to promote the delivery of quality special education and services in both the non-public and public sectors of education.

  • Homeschool Association of California: A a nonprofit volunteer-run homeschool organization that supports the entire spectrum of homeschooling

  • Orange County Private School Association: Founded in 1970, the Orange County Private Schools Association is a not-for-profit group of independent preschools through high schools in Orange County.

Starting a Private School

Want to know more about opening a school? We’ve assembled a complete guide to starting a private school, with considerations for everything from planning and finance to branding, hiring, curriculum, facilities, and more!

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We've done our best to pull together current and accurate information. Even so, there may be omissions or mistakes or content that needs to be updated. If you have recommendations for any resources or corrections, we appreciate your input so we can continue to improve this guide for everyone. 

Nothing in this guide should be construed as legal, business, or tax advice. It is important that you engage qualified professionals who can advise you on such matters, and please visit the Department of Education pages for your state to verify you are in compliance with all regulations.

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