Why California turned from most homeschool friendly to most unfriendly
By Howard Richman
Seventy years ago, persecuted homeschoolers would flee from the East Coast to California, the state that left you alone.
Back in 1988, when I co-led the battle that legalized homeschooling in Pennsylvania, we had the same two options under our compulsory education law that California still has today: (1) instruction by a qualified private tutor or (2) instruction by a private school. The difference was that Pennsylvania wouldn't let homeschoolers come under the private school option, while California would.
We had to get a statute passed in Pennsylvania to specifically legalize homeschooling to end the persecution of homeschoolers. But in California homeschoolers would either homeschool under the supervision of an existing private school, or they would start their own private umbrella school simply to oversee homeschooling, or the individual family would start a private school.
California used to believe in freedom of all sorts. They were not only the haven for educational freedom; they were also the haven for sexual freedom. But recently, leaders of the sexual freedom revolution decided that they no longer just wanted freedom from the government, they now wanted the government to endorse their lifestyle.
The California courts have also been supporting the new stance of the sexual freedom leadership. In 2000, California voters passed a referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but in March 2005 a San Francisco judge struck down that referendum, declaring it to be unconstitutional. The California Supreme Court will likely rule soon on whether to uphold the referendum or the San Francisco judge's decision.
In response to his harsh treatment and strict rules, the 14-year-old daughter ran away from home and eventually went to the police. According to the social workers who got involved, he should have gotten her counseling for her signs of depression, instead of physically punishing her.
This family had been homeschooling under the supervision of an existing Christian school. The school had been giving the children periodic tests to measure their progress and had been sending a visitor to their home periodically. But the child-dependency judge was not interested in finding out the children's test scores or in hearing what the Christian school had to say about the children's progress. The court documents show uncertainty about how often the children were tested and how often the Christian school interacted with the family. The judge was more interested in the children's lack of socialization than their possible lack of an academic education: Here is the key paragraph regarding the dependency court judge's findings:
Despite this finding, the dependency court judge declined to force the younger siblings into school since the family had been homeschooling legally under California law. The court-appointed attorney for the younger siblings disagreed and appealed the decision to a California appeals court.
The appeals court judges looked more closely at the California statutes and decided that it was illegal for a family to homeschool under the supervision of a private school. In order to be attending the school, the children would have to be "in" the school for the required hours per day. The only alternative that they left open to homeschooling parents was instruction by a credentialed tutor, an option that simply would not be possible for most homeschooling families.
The author Howard Richman is co-editor of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers newsletter and executive director of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency.