No place like home
March 8, 2008
An appellate court in California has ruled rather decisively that parents in California have no constiutional right educate their children at home. This, of course, poses some serious problems to the homeschooling families in the state. The written opinion is erudite, lawful, and, apparently, fairly ironclad. One appreciates the clarity of language represented in passages like this one:
The trial court’s reason for declining to order public or private schooling for the
children was its belief that parents have a constitutional right to school their children in
their own home. However, California courts have held that under provisions in the
Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their
The opinion spends the overwhelming majority of its space detailing how legal precendent demonstrates that home education by the parents is not recognized as satisfying the compulsory education requirements of the state. The sheer amount of cases alone is difficult to respond to, and any appeal of this ruling will most likely fail.
That said, this does indeed need to be appealed. I think the court made the lawful decision on an issue which has received treatment in legislatures. The state of California has nothing in the education code specifically addressing parental education, and that will most likely be changed soon, to one end or another.
I disagree with the philosophy behind the court’s opinion–namely, that home education is inadequate or should be state-certified. Serious debates over the constiutionality of compulsory education can be had; frankly, I don’t think there’s a concrete answer. What I do think is that home education by the parents has proven in a majority of cirucmstances to be every bit as adequate, and in many cases more so, than a public or private school education. You can make the case that uncertified parents aren’t teachers, and you would be right. But you would have to show that this actually makes a tangible difference in homeschooling children. So far, the difference has shown itself to be one of improvement, not handicap.
Another issue arises: The “full faith and credit” clause. If a high school senior from Alabama, who has been homeschooled all his or her life, moves to California, will the state require the student to redo her entire educational career? Or perhaps take a specialized test (the latter option would almost certainly be either ineffectively easy or unfairly difficult, judging by public school performance on standardized tests)? Yet Alabama presumably honored the student’s credits. How would this be worked out?
All in all, I simply don’t think you can legislate this. It is too much of a legal gymnastic, bordering on negligence in education on one side and statist discrimination of homeschoolers on the other. Once a workable system can be introduced, I think rulings like the California one do more harm than good.