The state of California is warning parents that
they cannot educate their children at home without acquiring a
professional teaching credential.
Home-schooling illegal in the Golden State?
Activists say that if your information comes only from the state's
Department of Education, that is the obvious conclusion.
But legal defenders of home-based education argue that
"home-schooling" is not even mentioned in California law and is legal
under a statute that allows any parent to operate a "private school,"
even if the student body amounts to one. California is one of 12 states
where home-schooling is accomplished under a private school exemption.
Nevertheless, on July 16, the California education department issued
a memo that stated:
"In California, home-schooling – a situation where non-credentialed
parents teach their own children, exclusively, at home whether using
correspondence courses or other types of courses – is not an
authorized exemption from mandatory public school attendance."
This is pure deception, contends home-school legal advocate Roy
Hanson, director of the Lincoln, Calif.-based Private and Home Educators
"One of the things the school district obviously is trying to do is
use this to frighten people into joining the public school program," he
The memo, printed on the stationery of state Superintendent of Public
Instruction Delaine Eastin, informed local educators of a new procedure
that private schools must use to excuse their students from public
school attendance. Private schools are required to file an affidavit for
that purpose between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 each year. The new method allows
them to file via the Internet, directly with the state office.
The July 16 memo's reference to home-schooling continues:
"Furthermore, a parent's filing of the affidavit required of a
private school does not transform that parent into a private school.
Therefore, those parents who home-school their children are operating
outside the law, and there is no reason for them to file an
Michael Smith, president of the
Home School Legal Defense Association
in Virginia, is amazed by the state's position.
"It's really absurd when you think about it," he said, "because
California, supposedly this forward state, would be the only state in
the union that would require home-schoolers to be certified teachers."
The state's interpretation of the law has been communicated in
various ways for about 10 years and is designed "to intimidate people
not to home-school," said Karen Taylor, president of the
California Homeschool Network
In spite of the July memo, according to Taylor, home-schooling
families will continue this year as usual.
"They can say anything they want to, but the law has not changed,"
she said. "That is the important thing."
"Your child will be considered truant"
But the memo is being taken seriously by local education
The San Diego County Office of Education sent a letter Aug. 2 to
"private school administrators" – which includes home-schooling families
– informing them of "recent and urgent information" regarding the filing
of private school affidavits. The fourth paragraph directs their
attention to the July 16 memo's warning about home-school instruction.
The San Diego County letter concludes that, "As a result,
non-credentialed parents who have home-schooled their children in the
past can no longer file affidavits."
Without an affidavit, the letter warns, "your child will be
Enclosed with the letter was a list of area programs with
"credentialed home-school teachers that can assist you with your home
schooling efforts." These are home-school programs conducted with
oversight from the local public school district, said Smith, including
charter schools and independent study cooperatives.
The San Diego letter concludes with, "Our sincere apology and regrets
regarding this matter. Unfortunately this situation is not in our
Hanson said, however, that on Thursday he and other home-school
defenders received assurances from a new attorney with the Department of
Education, Roger Wolfertz, that the state must accept an affidavit from
any parent who desires to teach at home. Wolfertz made that
clarification at a meeting of the California State School Attendance
Review Board, an advisory body to the superintendent of public
Will home-schooling families in California be informed that despite
the July 16 memo and other comminuques, they can file their affidavits
as usual and continue homeschooling?
"We don't expect that," said Jim Davis, legislative liaison for
Have California parents been deliberately misinformed by the state
regarding the legality of home-schooling?
"I would go so far as to say this, they probably have been deceived
in the past, and they're being even more deceived now," said Hanson.
The California Homeschool Network's Taylor agrees that
the state has been putting out
false information "to intimidate people not to home-school." She
speculates that the motivation is money.
"That's all I can think of," she said. "Home-school children are
doing well – there doesn't seem to be any argument academically or
socially. When our children are
not in the school system the districts lose funding."
Hanson explained that funds are allotted according to how many
students are enrolled. Each school-age child that does not enroll in the
local public school represents lost potential income of $4,000 to
The state's increasing pressure on home-schooling families comes at a
time when family advocates such as James Dobson are saying "it's
time to get our kids out" of California's public school
speech at the National Religious
Broadcasters convention in February, he noted that the California
legislature has mandated the teaching of "homosexual propaganda" in the
state's public schools.
California home-school legal defender Gary Kreep, president of the
U.S. Justice Foundation in Escondido, near San Diego, agrees that
funding is a motivation for rejecting home-schooling, but also believes
that some officials don't like home-schoolers because they are