Homeschooling and California

March 19, 2008 at 11:01 pm

The Department of Children and Family Services charged a California homeschoolfamily with violating the state’s requirement that children be enrolled in a school. The parents appealed the decision. Lawyers representing the two youngest children argued that California law requires that children be enrolled in a public or private school or be taught at home by a certified tutor. (#1) The court ruled against the parent’s to homeschool their children. This has caught the national attention and focused it on homeschooling across the United States.

Parents choose to home school for a variety of reasons. The most prevalent appears to be the fundamental Christians who desire to have their child raised within the beliefs of the parents. These parents point to state curriculum that mandate the teaching of evolution, the use of prophylactics, issues of sexuality concerns and a string of other concerns. Other parents express concerns over safety, social contact, health issues and poor teachers as their reasons to homeschool. There is also the a general concern that schools do not do the job. It is a constant topic in the news media and the political arena. Parents want a good education for their children and if the schools are not doing it then the parent will do it.

The state expresses a concern that the homeschooled child is lacking the state mandated goals. They feel that parents are incapable to provide the education of their children. The parents are unqualified. The solution is simple. All children must attend a state school or a school sanctioned by the state. It is in the best interest of the community.

Homeschooling is not a new concept but it has captured the nation’s attention in the past decade. There are estimates that claim over one million children are being homeschooled now and that number is growing. California alone accounts for an estimated 160,000 children.

There are thirty or more states that specifically address the homeschooling issue. California is not one of them. California law states that students must be enrolled in either a public or private school or can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor. California has rarely enforced the issue. According to the recent ruling of the California courts, “Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children.” This ruling applies only to California.

However, homeschooling is under attack in other states. Nebraska is attempting to pass restrictions on homeschoolers; one bill would require all homeschooled children to score at least in the 50th percentile on state standardized test. Failure to so would result in requiring enrollment in a public or private school. In Tennessee and Mississippi, the legislators are considering a bill that would require homeschooled children to take state mandated tests that are required by all Tennessee public school students. Wisconsin has shut down an Internet school used by a number of homeschoolers in an attempt to regulate the homeschool. (#2)

There is a legitimate argument here. If a parent feels that the curriculum mandated by a local school does not meet their approval, can the parents then choose to homeschool there child? Since state tests are based on state curriculum that the parents disagree with, should the child be forced to take state tests? As mandates have moved away from local districts to state oversight and now the federal regulations, the parents are less able to influence the curriculum as much as once upon a time. A local school district might serve a community of 2000 people. The state may have 12 million. The nation has a population of is 282 million. One voice in the local community might be heard. That same voice in the state is a whisper and in the nation it is a silence.

At what point does the government overstep it authority to mandate the local authority of controlling its own curriculum? The US constitution guarantees each of its citizens in the 10th amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Since not a word about education is spoken in the US constitution, that power then rests with the state and the people. Most states delegate authority for local schools to school boards in local communities. AND TO THE PEOPLE!

#1 From the Los Angeles Times March 6, 2008(http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-homeschool6mar06,0,7343621.story)
Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families

#2 Home-Schoolers, Under New Scrutiny, Pushing Back
By Lesli A. Maxwell . Education Weekly. March 12, 2008.

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Entry filed under: Homeschooling.

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