- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In a blow to parents everywhere, the Los Angeles 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled last week that under provisions in the state’s education code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children and in fact criminalizes efforts to do so since they are not certified teachers. Perhaps more disturbing than the ruling is how some “education experts” are classifying it. One National Education Association (NEA) official has referred to home-school parents as “gullible, amateurs” who don’t have the skills to teach their own children. Sound a little condescending? University of San Diego law Professor Shaun Martin told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the ruling means “parents no longer have the right to home school their kid any way they want.” Any way they want?

Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, considers that a pretty skewed view of what education is about and told us that “not every child in a home setting has to be taught by a certified teacher. It doesn’t prepare one to teach any better than anyone else.” He’s right. Fact is, there are requirements in every state to ensure that home-schooled students meet set standards. So in spite of the professor’s apparent ignorance, parents cannot teach whatever “they want.” Furthermore, any parent who has the courage, stamina and patience to spend all day, every day teaching their children in addition to ongoing parental responsibilities, hats off to them. Surely it is no easy task for the estimated 2 million families who currently make this choice.

The ruling is estimated to impact more than 166,000 California children who are currently taught at home. And the chilling effect could move beyond California. Prior to the court’s decision, home-school advocates say they have already seen an increase in the number of anti-home schooling bills this year. The state of Nebraska — one case in point — nearly banned home schooling after legislation crafted by a state senator called for an overhaul. She was forced to back down when the governor threatened to veto it.

The California ruling could not only create more Nebraskas, but since the court requires all students be taught by a certified teacher, the ruling could go even further to impact private schools, charters and tutoring — which, ironically, includes many of California’s own child actors and athletes. Some of these home schooled star success stories include: tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams, “Cosby” kid Raven Symone and Elijah Woods of “Lord of The Rings.” Then there are the “everyday” success stories, such as Chelsea Bets Christenson, 2003 and 2005 winner of the U.N. High School Essay Contest; Yang Liu, a home schooled-graduating senior, selected as a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program; and California’s own 13-year-old Evan O’Dorney, who won the 2007 Scripp’s National Spelling Bee.

Mr. Smith and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who said, “parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children” — vow to fight for a reversal to the appellate court ruling. As well they should. Preserving educational freedom of parents and students is a legal and moral imperative.

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