If Delaine Eastin had her way, homeschooling in California would be illegal for all parents except certified teachers. Eastin, California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent a letter to every school district in the state this year, declaring the state department of education's position and encouraging districts to crack down on "small private schools" enrolling five or fewer students.
What happens in California is important for a number of reasons.
First, the education establishment across America is watching to see how this turns out. If California is able to roll back well-established homeschool freedoms, it will encourage other states to tighten up regulation of homeschoolers nationwide.
Second, as a unique minority group, our concern for one another and for each other's freedom should extend beyond state lines.
Third, it's important to Home School Legal Defense Association because one out of every five of our member families lives in California. We care what happens to each member and we're committed to proactively protecting their right to homeschool.
HSLDA feels confident that homeschoolers will win should this issue end up in court. The law is on our side. No other state requires teacher certification as the sole teacher qualification requirement for the parent-teacher.
What is motivating Eastin? I don't know specific motives, but over 20 years of interacting with public school officials gives me some insight. I think the California Department of Education believes home educators have too much freedom and not enough regulation--that's a built in bias.
A Xavier University study printed in the American School Board Journal reported the results of a questionnaire sent to 2,000 randomly selected public school administrators and returned by 900. While the survey does not purport to represent the opinions toward homeschooling of every one of the 120,000 public school administrators nationwide, it does reflect the thinking of a large majority.
- 95% of administrators said any kind of education other than homeschooling would be in the pupil's best interest.
- 1% of the administrators believe that homeschoolers perform better academically than public school students, yet 24% admit they don't know how they perform.
- 71% said that homeschoolers are not regulated enough.
- 55% believe that homeschoolers don't even meet the academic standards set by the state.
Unfortunately, the survey results demonstrate both ignorance and prejudice against homeschooling. It would seem state laws are the only thing restraining these officials from trying to further regulate homeschoolers.
Two mistaken perceptions motivate many public school officials to seek more regulation of homeschoolers: Children of compulsory school age are the state's responsibility, and parents are not capable of educating their own children. Eastin confirms this belief in her August 27 letter to the California legislature. She asked the legislature to regulate homeschoolers, on the basis that "thousands of homeschooled children are not subject to any supervision whatsoever."
Apparently Eastin, like many other public education officials, believes that homeschoolers' education should be controlled by public school officials, so that children can be exposed to ideas and beliefs different than what their parents, especially religiously motivated parents, teach. Such officials believe that only they are "qualified" to determine what is proper education for homeschoolers.
An additional issue is money. Local school districts across our nation receive a large portion of their funding based upon the number of children in attendance. Obviously, each child not attending the local school district represents a loss in revenue. This is especially critical in California because of the $22 billion shortfall in the state's budget. Education makes up a large percentage of that budget. I don't think it is merely coincidental that almost every school district in California has forwarded the "scary" Eastin letter to homeschoolers, urging families in the district to enroll in one of the public school/homeschool oversight programs listed in an attachment to their letter. Not mentioned is the fact that this would allow the public school to collect money for each child enrolled.
The challenge California homeschools are facing today will be faced by homeschoolers in other states in the future, especially in less-regulated states.
I say all of this to give a warning to those in the homeschool community who may feel safe and comfortable. DON'T. As long as your state has a compulsory attendance law, you must be vigilant to maintain and even advance your current freedom. Our goal at HSLDA is to incrementally advance freedom in each state. Every one of our members plays an important part in reaching that goal.
HSLDA encourages each member family to join your state homeschool organization and local support group so that you can remain on the front line in the battle for parental freedom. If we do not remain engaged, we will lose the freedoms we have gained. The attitude of the public school establishment will not change overnight, if ever. Until it changes, parents will continue fighting the establishment in the most critical battle of all--for the minds of our children.
Thank you for partnering with HSLDA in this battle. Members who understand the seriousness of this conflict and have a desire to communicate it to others give us an incredible edge in the battle. Stay tuned for updates in the continuing battle of California homeschoolers to remain free. Please pray for your fellow homeschooling parents in California.