Threatening Homeschoolers By Betsy Newmark

A new ruling by a California state court could chill homeschooling in the state.

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California’s home schooling families.

Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation.

Teaching credentials. Bah! I’ve got teaching credentials and found all the folderol I had to go through to get certified pretty much worthless. The most helpful subject is learning techniques on managing a class, something I didn’t learn from the education professors in school because none of them had taught in a public school in the previous decade. If the concern is that the parent can’t teach a child to read or write, the state has a testing system to see if the child is learning. We seem to have a lot of credentialed teachers who have trouble teaching students how to read and write.

This case has unique circumstances because there are allegations of child abuse against the parents of eight children who were home-schooling. We have laws against child abuse, so the question of credentialing them as teachers should be secondary to making sure that the kids aren’t being abused. The mother doesn’t seem to have a college education; I might be willing to go so far to require that the homeschooling parent have at least a college degree. But teaching credentials are superfluous to being a good teacher. Plenty of credentialed teachers are lousy. And a lousy case would transform into lousy law if the state appellate court agrees with this ruling by the lower court judge.

“Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. “Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program.”

Already, the homeschooling community is up in arms about this ruling. They see it as an attack on parents who are homeschooling out of their religious convictions because they object to some of the curriculum being taught in public schools. Whatever the objection, the important thing is to see if kids are learning. If they are, then who cares whether the parent has credentials.

For many years, it was the norm for most children to be homeschooled. Then in the 1830s there was a whole movement to provide public education. Part of the goal was to inculcate children with patriotic virtues. Later in the century, there was a desire to assimilate immigrant children to becoming good American citizens. Boy, have we gotten away from that goal!

According to the LA Times article, there are about 166,000 students being homeschooled in California as best as can be determined. What would happen to the California public schools if those students had to move into the public schools next year? With all the problems that the California school system is facing, would they be able to accommodate all those kids?

Of course the teachers union is all happy trilling about how important it is for teachers to be credentialed. Phooey! I say let’s have all teachers and homeschooling parents be judged by the same criteria – are the students learning. The teachers union would be a lot less happy if teachers were losing their jobs if their students were failing.

This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page.

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