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Seeing a problem where none exists: California educrats eye home schooling
By Paul M. Weyrich
The next knock on the door of many California homes may send unnecessary shivers down the spines of parents concerned enough about their children's education to teach them at home. It's an outrage and something that should get Californians mad enough to make some of the bureaucrats in the California Department of Education write on the blackboard two hundred times: "Home Schooling is not illegal in the state of California."
But it is just one more chapter in the long-running fight in this country over who knows best how to raise children: the state or the parents. Evidently, but not surprisingly, there is a mindset within some key officials of the California educational-social services complex that is dead-set in its belief that they know better than parents.
That's not always been the case because throughout much of the 1980s the California Department of Education would inform parents that aspiring home schoolers had two options: educating their children through a private tutoring option or a private school option. As the Home School Legal Defense Association remarks on its website, home schooling was not an official option of the state. Codes allowing the use of private tutors and private schools provided home schoolers with the legal flexibility to teach their children at home.
In fact, the Home School Legal Defense Association says the state department of education once looked upon home schoolers with relative favor. Then, the state's educrats did a 180-degree turn in the last decade. Yet, no new laws placing added regulations on home schoolers have been placed on the books during that time.
The crux of the current debate is that key officials in the CDE now insist that home schooling can only be done by tutorial exemption by a private tutor who is state "credentialed" to teach the pupil's grade level.
Superintendent of Education Delaine Eastin is arguing that home schooling is illegal, having sent a letter to county and district boards of education that said parents who lacked certification as teachers could not teach their own children in home schools.
Eastin is purposely ignoring another option permitted by California's education code that allows private schools to be established provided that they meet regulations, including an instructor who is `capable of teaching' (which does not require being "credentialed") and that the courses of study mirror those required to be taught in public schools.
HSLDA says that none of the 49 other states require home schoolers to be certified instructors to be able to teach their children at home. Actually, in 1993, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in People v. DeJonge that requiring parents to obtain state certification is unconstitutional.
That is unlikely to matter to Eastin, a liberal who was backed by the California Teachers Association and the state chapter of the National Organization for Women in her last race. (She is not able to seek reelection to her non-partisan position this year because of term limits.)
While Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) is receiving support from the CTA, the Republican candidate for governor, William Simon, has made clear where he stands. Speaking on September 3rd at the Calvary Christian Center School in Sacramento, Simon said, "We must welcome parents back into the day-to-day lives of their children. Any school that does this, and indeed any school, public or private, that gives a child the chance to succeed, will earn my respect. And, yes, this will include schools that are just one child, or a few, learning at home with their parents. Too often the state has focused too much on strict mandates, and not enough on results. The latest example of this is the state's assault on home schooling."
Simon is absolutely right. For the California Department of Education, whose real purview is public schools -- not private -- should be devoting its time and money to doing its principal job. There's plenty of room for improvement in most public schools as anyone who has taken a look at the standardized test scores should know.
But home schoolers do very well on such tests as information published by the National Home Education Research Institute clearly shows. NHERI, by the way, shows that home schooled students in states with low regulations did just as well as home schoolers in states with more regulation. Home schoolers clearly do better than their peers in public school schools according to NHERI's studies.
California home schoolers may hear that knock on the door, but they should not be intimidated. The Home School Legal Defense Association and the Christian Home Educators Association of California have been letting home schoolers know they are very much within their rights and the law to home school their children. HSLDA and CHEA are ready to fight back should any local school district, emboldened by the state Department of Education's claims, try charging home schooling families with having their children truant. If you know someone being hassled by the educrats, be sure to let them know about the help that the HSLDA and CHEA can offer.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, which has over 15,000 member families in California, worries that even with Eastin's departure, the bureaucrats within the state Department of Education will continue to press their trumped up case against home schoolers. That some anti-home schooler in the legislature next session may try to place restrictions on home schooling. That's real cause for concern. Anyone who believes in protecting parental rights and educational freedom should stand be concerned with protecting the freedom to home school in California or anywhere else. I know I am. After all, if a parent cannot have the right to teach his own child in this country, then how much freedom do we really have?
Paul M. Weyrich is President of the Free Congress Foundation.
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