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Four Legal Options for Home Educating

With summer approaching, Home School Legal Defense Association has received hundreds of calls from potential and first-time home schoolers in California, asking how to comply with the law. HSLDA has a summary of the California home school law, as we do for every state, which we automatically provide to our new members. Others can get a free copy upon request.

California is one of twelve states where home educating is primarily accomplished through the private school statute. But there are actually four home educating options under the California law. Those options are as follows:

1. The private tutor provision. Pursuant to Education Code 48224, the tutorial provision, a child may be taught at home by a person who holds a valid state credential for the grade taught. The instruction is to be offered between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and is to take place for 175 days each calendar year. The child is required to be taught the same courses that are required for the state public schools, and the instruction is to be in English.

2. The small private school. Education Code 48222 provides that children being taught in a private school by teachers who are "capable of teaching" are exempt from public school attendance. The private schools are to keep attendance, provide instruction in English, provide instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools, and file a private school affidavit each year between October 1 and 15.

3. Private school independent/satellite school program. Private campus schools or groups of parents formed for the purpose of networking small private schools may establish home education programs. The requirements under the Education Code are the same as indicated in option 2 above. The head or supervisors of the private school are responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements outlined in option 2.

4. Public school independent study program. Public schools in California may enroll students in the public school and allow the instruction to be done at home by the pupil's parents. In such a program, the parents sign a contract at the time of enrollment, and the child is then considered to be a public school student. The independent study program is subject to all the rules and requirements established for public schools. Public school independent study programs vary widely, but generally no academic credit will be given if the curriculum used contains any religious content. Home schoolers using this option will be bound by the separation of church and state issue because of their affiliation with public schools.

Unfortunately, not every one in the California education establishment agrees that home education may be conducted through the private school exemption. Attorney Carolyn Pirillo of the California Department of Education has issued a letter expressing that very opinion. Her view is that the only legal options are the public school independent study program and the tutorial provision.

This letter has created considerable confusion in California, despite the fact that the Department of Education does not have any authority to enforce the compulsory attendance laws. Any opinion given is merely to advise the local public schools, which are charged with enforcing the compulsory attendance law. A large majority of school districts in the state of California tacitly recognize the private school exemption for home educators.

HSLDA is not the only organization which asserts that home education is a legal option under the private school exemption. The U.S. Department of Education, the California School Boards Association, the present chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, and the National Association of State School Boards all recognize home education in California through the private school exemption.

Do not be confused: home education in California is legal and can be accomplished through any of the four options outlined above. Although we handled hundreds of negative school district contacts on behalf of California home educators in the 1995-96 school year, not a single member family had to face prosecution during that time. Several families did have to attend School Attendance Review Board (SARB) hearings, which are the school district's final attempt to coerce attendance before filing a truancy action. At those hearings, we defended our families using the legal position that they are in compliance with the private school exemption, and therefore in compliance with California compulsory attendance law. In all of the SARB hearings, no referrals were made for truancy prosecution.

Because of the confusion caused by the California Department of Education's recent letter, it has been rumored that a committee will be formed to clear up the issue by formulating home school legislation. HSLDA's view is that any home school legislation would be superfluous. The private school exemption is clearly a legal option for home education. Therefore, any attempt to legislate a change in the California law as it relates to home schoolers will be strenuously opposed by HSLDA and, as far as we are aware, by all the state home school organizations in California.

It is tempting to believe that California home educators would be better off if the state legislature passed a home school law, so that everyone would agree what the law requires. However, if this occurred, California home schoolers would give up significant freedoms that most states with home school laws do not have. Therefore, we will continue to assert the positions outlined above for the 1996-97 school year. Happy home educating!

Good News from the California Legislature

California home schoolers recently faced a serious threat to home education in the form of Assembly Bill 2901, introduced in the 1995-96 regular session of the California Legislature by Assembly Member Vasconcellos. AB 2901 would have required the director of the California Employment Development Department to convene a Task Force on Industry Skills Standards. The Task Force would have been required, among other things, to develop a proposed master schedule of up-to-date industry-specific skill standards for major industries in California, and to develop a plan for instilling those standards in California's work force through private and public secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.

Family Protection Ministries and Home School Legal Defense Association considered this bill to be one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to home schoolers ever introduced in California. The main reason the bill was so serious was that it included private schools as well as public schools in implementing the school-to-work provisions for the Task Force's consideration.

On May 8, 1996, HSLDA Vice President Michael Smith sent a letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Assembly Members on behalf of the Private School Advocacy Center, a division of HSLDA. The Private School Advocacy Center was established to represent the twelve states where home schools operate as private schools.

Smith's letter expressed strenuous opposition to AB 2901 and its attempt to place private schools (and home schools operating as private schools) under state government control by mandating curriculum content in order to meet the school-to-work requirements. Smith pointed out that since most private schools in California are sectarian and religious in purpose, this bill would arguably violate the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion rights granted to these families and schools in the U.S. and California Constitutions.

Additionally, the letter expressed adamant opposition to any influence of the federal government's Goals 2000 program, which implements the school-to-work and careers program for public schools. It was from the federal Goals 2000 legislation that the outcome-based education (OBE) approach received its genesis. Most private home schoolers adamantly oppose OBE and its attendant evils.

By God's grace, Assembly Bill 2901 was recently defeated in the Assembly Appropriations Committee due to the hard work of Roy Hanson of Family Protection Ministries and hundreds of California home schoolers, who made telephone calls and wrote letters to committee members in opposition to this bill.

The Family Protection Ministries is to be congratulated on its staunch effort to defeat this legislation. Those HSLDA members who would like to support the efforts of the Family Protection Ministries can do so by sending donations to:

Family Protection Ministries
910 Sunrise Ave., Suite A-1
Roseville, CA 95661

A gift of $30 or more will entitle the donor to receive 5 issues of the newsletter edited by Roy Hanson, Jr., Executive Director of Family Protection Ministries. Among other things, the newsletter details the progress of any legislation effecting home educators and parental freedoms.