|| LEGAL/LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
ACROSS THE STATES
CDE changing position on homeschooling?
Newly-elected California Department of Education (CDE) Superintendent of Instruction Jack O'Connell, who supported private home education while he served in the legislature, appears to be shifting CDE to a more neutral position on homeschooling.
Although only countiesnot CDEhave the statutory legal authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of truancy, former superintendent Delaine Eastin and former CDE Deputy General Counsel Carolyn Pirillo had implemented an aggressive anti-homeschooling campaign through the department's website, voice mail recordings, and letters to school districts.
Several months after Pirillo's retirement in August of 2002 and Eastin's completion of her term limit in December of 2002, new CDE Deputy Counsel Michael Hersher announced several policy changes. For example, CDE has removed from its website documents that stated or implied that homeschooling is illegal. Hersher also reported that the department will stop stating that all privately home-educated children are automatically considered truant, leaving this determination to counties on a case-by-case basis.
"Homeschooling" in California, from the government's perspective, is a colloquial term which refers to parents teaching their own children in their home as either: (1) a part of a private school that they as parents established or as a part of a larger private school established by a third party; or (2) a part of a public school independent study program or a public school operating as a charter school.
CDE has never had the legal authority to "make a ruling" that private homeschooling is legal or illegal. Such declarations are the jurisdiction of the legislature. Under the United States and California constitutions, private parties have the right to do anything that the law does not specifically prohibit them from doing. In contrast, government entities can only do what the law specifically authorizes them to do.
Counties are limited to verifying that a particular compulsory-age student, whose name they already have, is exempt from public school attendance due to his enrollment and attendance in a private school which has filed an affidavit pursuant to EC §§ 48222 and 33190.
Home.School Legal Defense Association encourages our California members to write Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, thanking him for this more legally accurate and friendly position of the CDE (even if you don't agree with him on other issues). Keep your letter positive, short, and simple.
The Honorable Jack O'Connell
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
P.O. Box 944272
Sacramento, CA 94244-2720
HSLDA thanks Family Protection Ministries (FPM), Christian Home Educators Association of California, and all other individuals and groups who have been a part of this limited but important strategic policy change. HSLDA and FPM continue to work behind the scenes on this issue with the CDE and other parties. Visit www.hslda.org and www.cheaofca.org for the latest updates.
— J. Michael Smith
Editor's Note: The above article is based on an online article coauthored by FPM and HSLDA, posted at www.hslda.org on June 11, 2003.