The California Second District Court of Appeal published its final decision on the In Re: Rachel L. case, which was the case that threatened to outlaw homeschooling for parents not possessing teaching credentials. According to my reading of this story from the L.A. Times, it looks like the court decided that the status quo--that parents are permitted to file the paperwork to establish private schools consisting of their own households--has been affirmed. And since state law does not require teaching credentials for private school teachers, the court affirmed that it doesn't require teaching credentials for homeschool parents who have done the paperwork to establish their private schools.
I was particularly struck by this passage the Times quoted from the decision:
It is important to recognize that it is not for us to consider, as a matter of policy, whether home schooling should be permitted in California. That job is for the Legislature. It is not the duty of the courts to make the law; we endeavor to interpret it...Now, I happen to think that this judge gets it here--at least on this point. There are plenty of judges in this country who relish the chance to rule on policy.
However, while this is rightly considered a great victory for the homeschooling movement, I still think there are some storm clouds on the horizon. It's pretty obvious from some other quotes that the judge thinks the lack of homeschooling regulations in the law is a problem, and that the Legislature needs to address it. From the Times story:
"Our first task, interpreting the law of California, is made more difficult in this case by legislative inaction."And you know, there are plenty of people in this state who are going to be chomping at the bit to get the Legislature to do just that. So continued vigilance on the part of homeschoolers is definitely called for. (Especially since Tonya and I--who between the two of us, have a Minor in Music, a Bachelors in History, a Bachelors in Computer Science, a Masters in Library science, a whole bunch of experience in our fields, and a whole bunch of other coursework in miscellaneous classes--have no intention at this time of going back to school to get credentials.)
To that end, the court said additional requirements for home-schoolers in other states such as standardized testing or home visits should be considered by the California Legislature.
And there's still an open question about those who homeschool under the umbrella-program paradigm, where parents enroll in a school that provides some minimum of oversight while the parents teach the curriculum at home. My understanding is that the litigants in the In Re: Rachel L. case were homeschooling under this arrangement.
(Quick background: in California, all children must attend public schools unless they meet one of three "exemptions:" they must either attend a private school, or they must have a credentialed tutor, or they must belong to a school that assigns the curriculum and does the testing, but allows the parents to teach the curriculum at home. Most homeschooling falls under the first of these: the parents file the paperwork to establish private schools. But there are a substantial number of homeschooling families that operate under the third of these exemptions. These are often called "umbrella" programs. One of the arguments in the In Re: Rachel L. case is that the Sunland Christian School, which administered their umbrella program, was allowing the Longs too much freedom, with not enough oversight, to be kosher under the law. This argument doesn't appear to have been decisively settled; the court that originally made that argument is now no longer involved with the Longs.)
Nevertheless, even with all the above caveats, this ruling is still good news.
A PDF file of the text of the decision, courtesy of the LA Times story, is here.