Failed Government Monopoly Strikes Back

Homsechooling is illegal in California?

The Los Angeles Times recently panicked California home schoolers by reporting that a California appeals court had ruled that California parents did not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children.

As noted below, the teacher's union tried to cast this ruling as making homeschooling illegal.  Although teacher certification is required if children are enrolled in a public or private school, there is a special provision in California law which permits uncertified parents to home school their own children.  The panic appears to have come about because a homeschooling family tried to use the wrong part of the law to justify what they were doing and the union overreacted to the ruling, although reports are still confused.

Even though home schooling seems to remain legal in California, the court's ruling and the union's reaction demonstrate popular attitudes towards children and towards citizen's rights.

What Happened

The California Second District Court of Appeals did indeed rule 3-0 that homeschooling, which they defined as sending children to a private school whose teachers are not certified, is illegal even if the uncertified teachers happen to be the students' parents.  The Court ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws."

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue. [emphasis added]

The Court ruled that all students who are taught in private schools must be taught by state-certified teachers with a credential in the relevant grade, thus making any sort of home teaching effectively impossible.  There is some justification for this ruling because California law requires that all teachers in public or private schools be certified; uncertified parents may teach their own children, but they can't call themselves a "private school."

Comparison of public-school test scores with homeschooling test scores shows that this case has nothing to do with education or how well children learn or even whether children learn at all; home schooled students out-score public-school students at every level.  The case is about preserving the power of the teacher's union which exercises monopoly control over the state educational process and its vast budget.

Reactions to the Ruling

The newspaper documented the reaction of the teacher's union and other interested parties:

The ruling was applauded by a director for the state's largest teachers union.

"We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting." [emphasis added]

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said the agency is reviewing the decision to determine its impact on current policies and procedures.  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued a statement saying he supports "parental choice when it comes to homeschooling."

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which agreed earlier this week to represent Sunland Christian School and legally advise the Long family on a likely appeal to the state Supreme Court, said the appellate court ruling has set a precedent that can now be used to go after homeschoolers. "With this case law, anyone in California who is homeschooling without a teaching credential is subject to prosecution for truancy violation, which could require community service, heavy fines and possibly removal of their children under allegations of educational neglect," Dacus said.

What It All Means

The reaction of the Teacher's Association board, "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting," is a frank declaration of bureaucratic self-interest.  The union board did not say, "We believe that children learn best when taught by certified teachers," or "Certified teachers are more effective at imparting knowledge than uncertified teachers," or "Education is too important to be left to uncertified parents" or anything having to do with whether students learn or not.  What matters to the union is that all teaching be done by persons who have passed through the union-dominated certification process.

Monopolies hate competition.  The fact that home schooling parents who compete with public school teachers do a better job of educating students is irrelevant to the union; it's not about education, it's about empire, turf, control, and budget.  The usual union approach to competition is to get the government to declare competitors to be illegal rather than improving their own product.

The Pacific Justice Institute notes how far we've come from the old-fashioned notion that parents have both the primary right and the primary responsibility for bringing up their children.  Brad Dacus, the president of the Institute, pointed out that parents who try to educate their children in a manner which the state does not accept were subject to "possibly removal of their children under allegations of educational neglect."

Justice H. Walter Croskey declared that parents could be prosecuted for failing to comply with state educational requirements.  He went on to define the state's educational goals, "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare." [emphasis added]

Whether or not this ruling actually threatens home schooling remains to be seen, but it connects a number of dots with respect to the thinking of our ruling elites:

  • The appeals court stated that the state's goal is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation.
  • Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote that parents could be prosecuted for failure to comply with the state's requirements with respect to their children's education.
  • The California Justice Institute pointed out that prosecution could result in fines, community service, and the removal of the children into state custody.

We've Heard This Song Before

This 70-year-old newspaper article shows that power-hungry governments have always been opposed to strong families who think for themselves.  Strong families make weak governments; those in our nation who favor centralized government power dislike the idea of strong families.  The article starts with the headline:

Nazis take parents away from children

Nov. 29, 1937  In Waldenberg, Germany, a court has taken parents away from their children because they refused to teach them Nazi ideology.  The parents are pacifists, members of a Christian sect called International Bible Researchers.  The court accused them of creating an environment where the children would grow up "enemies of the state."  The children were delivered into the state's care.  The judge delivered a lengthy statement reading in part, "The law as a racial and national instrument entrusts German parents with the education of their children only under certain conditions, namely, that they educate them in the fashion that the nation and state expect." [emphasis added]

- Quoted from Chronicles of the 20th Century, 1987 edition, p. 475.  Chronicle Publications, Mt. Kisco, NY.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Government functionaries want power over your children.  The Nazi judge insisted that all parents teach their children Nazi racial ideology and educate them "in the fashion that the nation and state expect."  California Appeals Court Justice H. Walter Croskey writes that parents who do not fulfill the state's purpose in teaching "good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation" are subject to prosecution, which can include removal of their children into state care.  In her book It Takes A Village, Hillary Clinton argues that parents are unable to raise their children properly without government "help"; we've shown what's wrong with her idea.

There is obviously no comparison between the specific goals of the Nazi party and of the teachers' unions or California judges.  The Nazis wanted to kill innocent people, and to teach their citizens that doing so was right and necessary; it goes without saying that even the most liberal of Californians intend no such thing - well, with children that succeed in being born, anyway.

The underlying desire for control and means to that end, however, remain the same - it's a part of human nature, no more, and no less.  At every level, government functionaries look for power in general and control of children's education in particular because education has a lot to do with the future of our society.

Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty, it's also the price of parenthood.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
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