On February 28, the California Court of Appeals delivered a shock to the homeschooling community in that state. The court declared that all forms of homeschooling by an unaccredited parent violate California state law and that parents possess no constitutional right to homeschool their children.
Unless this ruling is overturned on appeal to the California State Supreme Court, 166,000 homeschooled kids could be forced to enroll in a public school, private school or be taught by an accredited tutor. Unaccredited parents could be slapped with criminal sanctions.
Thankfully, this ruling does not immediately affect the homeschooling communities beyond California. However, the ruling does arouse alarm: What would happen if this horrible trend began to take affect in courts across our nation?
This affront to constitutional rights is a dangerous precedent that cannot be ignored. As Michael Smith, president of the Home School legal Defense Association, said, “California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home.”
Americans take pride in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As granted by the United States Constitution, parents are afforded the freedom to raise and teach their kids according to their faith, principles and family values.
In my home state of Florida, there are about 36,939 families registered to establish home-education programs, which would educate approximately 55,822 students. These families have exercised their choice to provide an education they deem to be the most beneficial. Whether this choice was based on values, faith or the belief that they could better educate their own children, it is not the place of the federal government to intervene. Denying American parents this fundamental right would be an egregious attack on our personal liberties.
I am the product of a public school education and the son of two public school teachers. I am also the father of two school-aged boys who are being educated by the public school system. I am proud to have made the decision to send my boys to public school in Florida, based on my belief that this is the best place for them to learn, grow and develop. That being said, I am appalled to think of a day when parents are not allowed to educate their child based on what they believe to be the environment best for a child. Whether in public, private, religious or home school, kids must be allowed to learn in the arena where they will achieve the greatest success.
Individuals and families have the right and ultimately the responsibility to decide how to conduct their own lives and make personal choices. And that includes choices in the education of their children.
The California ruling clearly fails to recognize the research and statistical evidence that prove that not only do homeschooled kids receive a good education, but also that they perform as well as or better than their peers when compared socially and emotionally. Homeschooled kids are given the opportunity to pursue their interests and to explore their unique talents. They interact regularly with adults and tend to be more mature. Several studies show that homeschooled kids do not lag behind children attending public or private schools in social development. If parents choose to take their kids away from these social factors to provide them with what they believe to be a better education, we cannot deny them these rights.
The 10th Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” There will never be a good time to the strip away a parent’s right to decide how his child should be educated. The 10th Amendment does not grant the federal government power over education. Thus, that power goes to the states and the State of California’s Court of Appeals has irresponsibly decided to eliminate choice for parents, teachers and administrators. Choice in education must be upheld to ensure the academic and social success of our children, families, communities and the entire nation.