Don’t Get Too Comfortable, California

I’ve been debating with myself whether or not to post about the recent CA court ruling. Homeschoolers in California are so happy about the court’s decision, in particular the people who were directly involved in the case. So, I’m hesitant to say anything negative about it. On the other hand, there are also people, the vast majority of which are not in California, and none of which who were directly involved in the courtroom for this case, who have serious trepidations about the wording of the ruling.

Considering everything that happened, the ruling was about as positive as it could have been. Before the ruling came out, there was some banter on the legal e-list of several discussions during the hearing that indicated that the ruling might go very, very badly. Everyone stayed optimistic in spite of this. In the end, however, we got basically what we asked for, which delighted us, and also surprised us a little bit. But, just as I was not panicked when the original court ruling came about, I’m not jumping for joy about the recent ruling either. We have to be careful that we don’t get caught with our pants down. Actually, right now is our most vulnerable time, because we’re the most likely, right now, not to be paying attention.

Many people are concerned that the recent court ruling made it clear that they has final say in whether a child can be homeschooled. I’m not too concerned with this part, personally. This has already been the case for years, and we’ve dealt with it fairly well. We must remain diligent, however, and put pressure on the courts every time they try to make a decision that is clearly out of bias.

The recent court ruling also made an implicit call for legislators to clarify the law so that their job would be easier in the future. This is the one we need to pay attention to. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something on the Nov. ballot here in CA. If you are in CA, make sure that you let your representatives know, especially if they are Dems and you’re a Dem, that you want to keep homeschooling just as it is in CA, and that we do not need more regulation.

The recent ruling is indeed good news for CA, but not because we’ve been officialy declared legal. The reason that this ruling is good for CA, is that we have proven ourselves, as a political group, who is not a radical right-wing based organization. There is already a different “feel” towards homeschoolers in our state, particularly from “authorities”. Bringing out all of this drama on to the table for everyone to see has had an effect on our state’s social trends.

Some have questioned what HSLDA’s role was in all of this. Without getting into to much detail, I just want to give kudos to the CA state groups for working together with HSLDA in a positive way. Looking at it from the outside, it seems like HSLDA had a large hand in all of the work here, because they sent a ton of announcements and whatnot. But the truth is that the three CA groups and HSLDA worked together. Everyone did their part, and aside from a few fluffing of chest feathers, none of the involved groups made any unilateral decisions.

Although nobody wanted to deal with this unexpected turn of events, the final result was generally positive. Not perfect, but positive. Homeschooling activism is stronger than ever in CA. We have more volunteers and more support group members than ever before. We have stronger relationships with our Dem. representatives. We have more positive ties to our communities. And we have stepped up and proven that we can’t be ignored. In the end, I’m glad this all happened, and I’m expecting that we are not done. What lies ahead is impossible to predict. It could be anything, depending on who gets a bee in their bonnet. But whatever happens, we’re ready, and unified.


6 Responses to “Don’t Get Too Comfortable, California”

  1. Spunky Says:

    I’m glad you posted this.

    Michigan had a favorable ruling in 1995 and within six months lawmakers snuck a very unfavorable bill through the legislature right before the Christmas holiday break. We were able to change the bill and take out some unfavorable langauge and insert some favorable terminology, but it would have better had it not been done at all.

    The CA opinion seemed to beg the legislature to do something. Where things go from here is anyone’s guess. But it is good to know that “whatever happens, we’re ready, and unified” is the status of homeschoolers in Califiornia. That will serve you well if something does come up.

  2. Doc Says:

    The ruling interprets existing language in the educational code. I’d think that homeshoolers would want the protection that would come from seeing “home” and “school” in the same sentence, within the educational law. Nothing has changed, and honestly, another court could still come back and deny the use of an umbrella school. If I homeschooled in California, I’d choose the option of declaring myself a private school – in reading the law, that seems to be the nearest to the intent of the educational law. It was never really a question about whether or not a child could be homeschooled, it was a question of whether or not an umbrella school was actually a private school as defined.

  3. Obi-Mom Kenobi Says:

    I live in a state with very minor requirements for homeschooling parents so it’s easy to get lazy about the homeschooling news in our state, so I have a note to myself that comes up every month on the computer: “Don’t get complacent and start taking your freedom for granted.”

  4. Susan Nelson Says:

    Attention to the political climate is probably more important than it has been in decades. Homeschooling has a poorly understood legal status in our state for the simple reason that homeschooling has no legal status. It has not been addressed in the education statutes. What is addressed is something called independent study, which has interfaced and overlapped with the homeschooling community. But homeschooling as a legal entity does not exist.

    The state’s manual on public independent study mentions a desire to homeschool as one viable reason to select independent study. The common practice for homeschooling families has been to file an afidavit; however, this has amounted to flying under the radar, because an afidavit does not actually create a school in the legal sense. A private school by legal definition has minimum attendance – a difficult thing to prove in a home setting and an unreality in an “unschooling” setting.

    If, or more likely when, legislators get busy trying to write homeschooling legislation, the ‘under the radar’ days will be over. There might be some good reasons to begin systematically reviewing other states laws and using the best of these to be ready with a proposal or at least parameters for state law about home education. This would prevent scrambling to come up with something without adequate time.

    Laws will most likely be written to give authority to county superintendents because the state is too large to do much oversight at the state level. Protecting home schooling families from the vicissitudes of county superintendents should be a top priority.

  5. Debbie Schwarzer Says:

    I just can’t agree with the comment that “The common practice for homeschooling families has been to file an afidavit; however, this has amounted to flying under the radar, because an afidavit does not actually create a school in the legal sense. A private school by legal definition has minimum attendance – a difficult thing to prove in a home setting and an unreality in an “unschooling” setting.”

    It isn’t under the radar. Filing an affidavit for a school you create in your home is (a) out in the open, (b) explicitly recognized by this court as legal, and (b) not subject to anything having to do with minimum attendance. Go read Section 48222 of the Ed Code for yourself. There are very few requirements for valid private schools, and most parents are capable of complying with all of them.

    I do not worry overmuch about the court’s call to the legislature. If you read the opinion, you can see that the court was frustrated that the legislature had not tried to make it absolutely clear how homeschooling was to happen, especially in light of the old cases that seemed to say it wasn’t OK. Courts are always asking legislatures to clarify things so their job is easier. Legislatures are always ignoring courts. That said, we cannot be complacent.

    There’s a good reason why no one has pushed for a “homeschool specific” law in California. Right now, those who homeschool by forming their own private schools are regulated exactly the same as St. Francis High School. There is great strength and protection in being chained at the wrist to the traditional private schools. Whatever the legislature tried to do to homeschoolers, they would do to all private schools, and I don’t think the bigger private schools would like that (it would also have serious constitutional problems under the due process clause, as those familiar with the Texas ‘Leeper” case would know). For those people in states with homeschool-specific laws, I’m happy for you if the regulatory burden is low, but watch out. All it would take is one notorious abuse case involving a homeschool family, or other nasty event, to have the legislature down your throats.

    All the groups have stated all along that for parents to form their own schools is legal. But now an appellate court says exactly the same thing, and I think other courts and attendance officers are a heck of a lot more likely to pay attention to an appellate court than to me. I agree with the comment that umbrella schools aren’t as clearly OK. I think they probably are, but it isn’t as clear as for home-based schools formed by parents for their own children. Before this ruling came out, all the groups and HSLDA were contemplating whether to tell their members to form their own schools and file their own affidavits, since the children would definitely be “in” the brick and mortar school (the original opinion paid a lot of attention to the meaning of the word “in”).

    Go and be unhappy if you want, Tammy. I’m thrilled. I’m not worried about this November’s ballot, since all those deadlines have passed. I am worried about what the new legislature that starts up in January will do, and I agree that everyone needs to meet with their candidates and whoever wins the elections to remind them that (a) homeschooling is NOT a partisan issue, it’s practiced in California by people across the spectrum, and (b) it’s a vital option that needs to be preserved. I’m trying to get a paper published with all sorts of statistics and studies about how it doesn’t make a difference whether a homeschooling parent has a credential, it doesn’t matter whether a state has a high or low level of regulation — homeschoolers, by and large, do very well.

    Debbie Schwarzer

  6. Saturday Links — Here in the Bonny Glen Says:

    […] Don’t Get Too Comfortable, California « Just Enough, and Nothing More – Yup, I’ve been saying pretty much the same thing ever since the ruling came out. […]

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