Saturday, March 08, 2008

Homeschooling is NOT Imperiled in California by Gabriel Malor.

A recent California Court of Appeals case has been making some waves as the precursor to the end of homeschooling in this state. Michelle Malkin, Susan Duclos of Wake up America, and Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom have all noted it and discussed the implications of the case with some degree of outrage. I admit, it sounds pretty bad the way the LA Times writes:

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California’s home schooling families.Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation.

“This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling. “If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California.”

The ruling as described would effectively end homeschooling in California, and I agree that it would be an outrageous result. Fortunately, the LA Times misunderstood the case and that misunderstanding was carried over into the discussions of the bloggers listed above, who appear to have discovered the issue because they read the LA Times article or each other. (I am amused to discover that Memorandum has aided the dissemination of an untrue meme.)

The short version: The LA Times got it wrong in the first sentence of their article. Parents without teaching credentials can still educate their children at home under the various exemptions to mandatory public school enrollment provided in § 48220 et seq. of the Cal. Ed. Code. The parents in this case lost because they claimed that the students were enrolled in a charter school and that with minimal supervision from the school, the children were free to skip classes so the mother could teach them at home. There is no basis in law for that argument. If only the parents had attempted to homeschool their kids in one of the statutorily prescribed methods, they would have prevailed.

Under California law, attendance at a full-time day public school is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18. Parents wanting to take their kids out of the public schools must do so under one of the exceptions provided by the California Education Code. For the purposes of home schooling they are: § 48222 Attendance in private school or § 48224 Instruction by credentialed tutor. (There are other exceptions for short-term child actors, the mentally gifted, or leaves of absences, but they are not appropriate for homeschoolers.)

So, generally, parents have three options for educating their kids in California: (1) public school; (2) private school; or (3) credentialed tutor. This is not as bad for homeschoolers as it looks. To be a private school in California, all the parent has to do is be “capable of teaching” the required subjects in the English language and offer instruction in the same “branches of study” required to be taught in the public schools. They also have to keep a register of enrollment at their “school” and a record of attendance. Once a year they have to file an affidavit with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction with things like their names and address, the names of the students and their addresses, a criminal background check (since we don’t want unsupervised felons teaching kids), and their attendance register. That’s it.

In the Longs’ case, they attempted to claim that their children were enrolled in a “valid charter school” and that the school was supervising the mothers’ instruction in the home. It is unclear from the court’s opinion, but it looks like the parents tried to argue that the children were enrolled in a public school (since all charter schools in California are public schools). But since they obviously couldn’t meet any of the attendance requirements for public schools*, the court also examined the question of whether the parents were credentialed. Since they obviously aren’t, the court kicked it back to the lower court to order them to “enroll their children in a public full-time day school, or a legally qualified private full-time day school.” It looks like the parents never bothered to argue that they were running their own private school in compliance with § 48222.

Who knew there was so much more to the story? It sounds like these parents were in deed trying to scam the system, and got caught. To read the entire post and for links to the laws regarding homeschooling in CA visit Gabriel Malor .


Kristen said...

Thanks for posting this, Sandra.

It's interesting that Homeschool Legal Defense ( is concerned enough about this to start a petition and get in on the fight if it really doesn't imperil homeschooling in CA. I wonder how much this ruling is open to interpretation...

Sandra said...

I think the big cause for concern is that the laws regarding what is considered "private school" are so vague. They leave a huge gap which could allow room for the unions to push and get a ruling that would make it illegal for parents to home school their children. My guess is that the Home school Legal Defense is being preemptive for fear that without being preemptive others may have their way with the interpretation of the law.

Unknown said...

The media has again functioned as the obfuscator of truth and served to incite confusion and distrust.

I'm glad that there is more to the story, I just hope that most people have the attention span to bother to read and understand it.

Sadly, I think I will be disappointed.