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Education Reporter

California Court Says Homeschoolers Must Have Certified Teachers
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In a widely protested ruling, a California court of appeal said on February 28 that only parents who are certified teachers can homeschool. The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled on a child welfare case involving two of Phillip and Mary Long's eight children, all of whom the Longs have homeschooled. When one of the children accused his father of physical abuse, a lawyer requested a trial court to order the children enrolled in public school, so that they could be monitored more closely. The trial court refused, and the lawyer appealed the ruling.

The appeals court ruling, written by Justice Walter Croskey, declares that parents "do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children." According to the court, only teachers certified and licensed by the state may legally educate their children at home. Non-credentialed parents must send their children to full-time public or private school or pay for a credentialed tutor to teach their children at home. Croskey also wrote that "keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where . . . they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents' 'cloistered setting.'"

"In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter," opined the Wall Street Journal (3-22-08). The Journal editorial went on to explain why the rate of homeschooling increased nationally by 29% between 1999 and 2003: "That so many families turn to homeschooling is a market solution to a market failure - namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly." Homeschoolers as a group outscore public school students on standardized tests by as much as 30 percentile points in some subjects.

"A single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids," wrote the editors of the Journal. "If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel."

In California, where an estimated 166,000 children are homeschooled, the Department of Education recognizes homeschooling as a type of private education. No state law specifically addresses homeschooling. In 2002, Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin declared that it was illegal to educate children at home, and that she would enforce the law. She asked the legislature to address the issue, which it declined to do. Eastin's replacement, Jack O'Connell, is friendlier to homeschooling and has not interfered with the practice. In response to the recent appeal court ruling, O'Connell said that he supports "parental choice when it comes to homeschooling."

The California Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate, applauded the ruling. "We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who sits on CTA's board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting."

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) gathered a quarter of a million signatures within ten days on a petition protesting the ruling. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also spoke out in favor of homeschooling and against the court's decision. "Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education," said Schwarzenegger. "This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts, and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will."

On March 25, the court of appeal granted a motion to rehear this controversial case.

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