Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Trio of Powerful Allies

In the wake of the California Appeals Court ruling on homeschooling, In Re: Rachel L, there have been many different opinions expressed about what exactly the ruling means. Some have interpreted the ruling to mean that homeschooling in California has been outlawed for anyone that doesn't have an appropriate credential. I've seen this opinion expressed a lot by those who are in the homeschooling movement--many of whom are pessimistic about state protections of homeschooling rights. (And to be fair, given the kinds of cases that have popped up from time to time in other states, and the legislation and regulations they have to deal with, many homeschoolers have had reason to be pessimistic.)

I suspect there are many opponents of homeschooling who interpret the ruling this way too, although I haven't been following the debate enough to point to any specific examples.

After some initial shock on my part, I took the time to familiarize myself with the ruling and the facts of the case, and I've become a bit more sanguine about the situation. The ruling still appears to be pretty sour on homeschooling in general. However, I didn't actually see anything in the ruling that changed the system homeschoolers operate under. Under state law, private schools are not required to have their teachers credentialed. So if parents follow the laws to establish private schools--with themselves as teachers and administrators, and their kids as the students, they're fine. The ruling said this arrangement probably wasn't what the legislature intended; but it didn't explicitly go on to ban the practice. (And I think the ruling even went too far with the comment about what the legislature intended or didn't intend, as it had nothing to do with the case at hand.)

But my view was definitely at the more optimistic end of the scale. And when you're all the way at one end of the scale, it's easy to start second guessing yourself: Hmmm. everyone else is more pessimistic than me. Is it more likely that I'm the only one right and everyone else wrong, or that I'm the one who's missing something?

So it was very relieving and gratifying to see this official release from the California Department of Education, sent out about a week ago:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced today that the California Department of Education has completed a legal review of the February 28 California Court of Appeal ruling regarding home schooling. O'Connell issued the following statement:

"I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that choose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state....

"As the head of California's public school system, I hope that every parent would want to send their children to public school. However, traditional public schools may not be the best fit for every student.... But some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.

"I admire the dedication of parents who commit to oversee their children's education through home schooling...."
Edited down by me. Go read the whole thing.

So basically, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, head of the Department of Education, has decided that the ruling changes nothing in the way the law is interpreted regarding homeschoolers. It was legal to do it before, so long as certain minimum requirements (like the filing of the annual affidavit) were met; it's legal now, under exactly the same set of requirements.

It's also nice to know that the Governator is on our side. Now, I know that governors come and go (and for that matter, State Superintendents do too); there's no telling what the next state administration will do on this matter. But for now, it's reassuring to hear what Der Arnold said on this issue about two weeks back:
Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.
Now, at the time he issued this statement, the State Superintendent hadn't yet completed his legal review of the ruling. There was still an open question as to what it all meant. It may well be that homeschoolers' rights won't be endangered, even if the ruling stands. Nevertheless, it's still nice to know that we've got the Governator on our side; that's no small thing.

But should the assistance of the State Superintendent fail, and the Hunter-Killer Android with the Austrian Accent be unable to terminate the threat, there's one more hero out there ready to do battle alongside the Forces of Freedom: the Man who can kill two stones with one bird; the Man who can lead a horse to water and make it drink; the Man for whom the boogeyman checks his closets at night.

That's right. We have Chuck Norris on our side--the most dangerous homeschooling father on the planet. The three judges have no idea what they've stepped in here. You do not want to tangle with the Man who can eat just one Lay's potato chip.

No comments: