November 15, 2004

Delaine Eastin Pushes to Regulate Homeschoolers

Many recall that Delaine Eastin served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for California from 1994 to 2002. During her reign, acrimony developed between the public school and homeschool communities.

This acrimony was a result of Ms. Eastin's position that home education through the private school exemption was not valid. She asserted that the homeschooling parent had to either be a certified teacher with a current certificate, or under the oversight of a public school independent study or charter school program.

One of her employees, Carolyn Pirillo, systematically sent letters to public school officials advising them of the position of the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding home education. The battle became so pitched between the two forces that just before Ms. Eastin left office, she wrote a letter to all the legislators in California requesting that legislation be passed to make sure that homeschoolers were accountable to the state.

Her position was that there were many failures in homeschoolers academically and that there were too many instances where homeschooled 18 year olds were illiterate. To our knowledge she never disclosed how she obtained this information, but she stated it as fact. Since her departure and the departure of Carolyn Pirillo, relationships have improved between the homeschool community and the CDE.

Ms. Eastin, who now works in Washington, D.C. for the National Institute for School Leadership, is being sought out by the media for comments regarding home education and whether homeschoolers should be regulated by the government. In a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal Ms. Eastin is quoted as saying, "We're making such a fuss about accountability for some and no accountability for others, shouldn't we pay some attention to the homeschoolers?"

She's up to the same old mischief perpetrated when she was Superintendent of Public Instruction in California. What effect will this have? Undoubtedly, there will be those all across the states, including California, that will continue to clamor for more control and oversight of home education. This is especially true, when people with the prominence of Ms. Eastin make the claim that "federal and state governments are ignoring homeschoolers."

This is, of course, not true as most states have some form of homeschool law or recognize homeschooling through the private school exemption. Homeschoolers have to comply with the law in their given state. Well over half the states require some form of monitoring to track student progress. When comparing homeschooled students in states where there is no evaluation requirement against those homeschooled students that have to submit standardized test results to the state, there is no appreciable difference between the scores of the two sets of students. Therefore, homeschool parents should not be regulated. Regulation makes no difference to the performance of homeschool students.

Homeschool parents have demonstrated their reliability over many years and there is simply no justification for following Ms. Eastin's advice for federal and state governments to increase their regulations of homeschoolers. Regulations will take away the genius of home education which is individualized instruction. In the field of education the government has only been successful at one thing - standardization. Standardization in education is not in the best interest of children and homeschoolers have figured it out.