I'm not so sure about this.
First, for those who haven't been following the story closely, a little background is necessary. I wrote about my views of the case, and what it means, here. I then went on to write a post entitled Homeschooling and Constitutional Rights, in which I explored the concept of Natural Rights and how these rights are recognized in the founding documents of our nation, and how this should apply to homeschoolers today (but doesn't always).
A couple of weeks later, the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction weighed in, explaining that the Department of Education had run a legal review of the ruling, and had determined that it didn't affect the legality of homeschooling as currently practiced in California. That is, those parents who had duly filed their affidavits establishing their families as unaccredited private schools were still in full compliance with all pubic education laws. If they were in compliance with the laws before the ruling, and the vast majority were, they remained in compliance with the laws after the ruling.
Through this all I've been much more sanguine about the meaning of the In Re: Rachel L. ruling than many. To this day I read in newspapers and on the sites of other bloggers that the ruling "outlawed the practice of Homeschooling by parents not possessing Teachers' credentials", which is absolutely not the case. This misconception is very widespread, by people on both sides of the issue. Even the home page of the HSLDA currently states (as I write this):
A California Court of Appeal recently decided that homeschooling is illegal in California unless a parent is a certified teacher.Now, after reading the decision myself, I'll say it's certainly possible that this is what the court intended to say; but that's not what the actual text comes out saying, when taken in context with the applicable laws. And as I mentioned above, the State Superintendent had a legal review done and concluded that the ruling did not outlaw homeschooling by uncredentialed parents.
So anyway, until this last Thursday, I was pretty confident that things would work out for homeschoolers. But then the court voided their previous ruling and re-opened the case.
Unlike the HSLDA, who's rather happy about this decision, I'm not so sure it bodes well. I could be wrong, and I'd be very, very happy if I was in fact wrong. But consider the following.
This is from the SFGate story I linked to above:
It is not unusual for appeals courts to reconsider decisions, and the result is often a minor revision that leaves the original conclusion unchanged. But the three-judge panel in the homeschooling case hinted at a re-evaluation of its entire Feb. 28 ruling by inviting written arguments from state and local education officials and teachers' unions.Emphasis added.
In other words: the court has decided to re-open the case, and has specifically asked the teachers' unions and officials in the public schools and the Department of Education for their opinions. It's pretty common knowledge what the CTA thinks of homeschooling.
And from the website of the HSLDA, we have:
Emphasis added again. In other words, the court has asked specifically the teachers' unions and various public school officials to weigh in on homeschooling, and has not specifically asked HSLDA (or, from what I've seen, any other homeschool advocacy group) to provide briefs; so the HSLDA has to seek permission from the court to file its brief.
The Court of Appeal has solicited a number of public school establishment organizations to submit amicus briefs including the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and three California teacher unions. The court also granted permission to Sunland Christian School to file an amicus brief. The order also indicates that it will consider amicus applications from other groups.
Home School Legal Defense Association will seek permission to file such an amicus brief and will coordinate efforts with a number of organizations interesting [sic] in filing briefs to support the right of parents to homeschool their children in California.
So in summary, a little timeline:
- The In Re: Rachel L. case involves a family with a long history of involvement with the state's Child Protective Agency for alleged abuse, who were homeschooling in a way that definitely stretched the law--in a way that most homeschoolers don't.
- The court issues a broad decision whose language goes far beyond the needs of the immediate litigants--making sweeping statements about the intent of the legislature and appearing, at first glance, to outlaw homeschooling by uncredentialed parents.
- The State Department of Education performs a legal review and determines that, in fact, the language of the ruling does not affect those who are homeschooling, so long as they continue to do the correct paperwork and get those affidavits in on time.
- So the court then decides to reopen the case, and actively solicits briefs from organizations and interest groups that are openly hostile to the practice of homeschooling. Organizations that represent homeschoolers do not at this time appear to have been similarly solicited.
Am I just being paranoid? I sure hope so. If you're more optimistic than this, please explain why in the comments; I really want to know.