Thursday, October 10, 2002

I reported in August that the California government intends to crack down on homeschooling parents who did not have state-approved teaching credentials. The L.A. Times is reporting that the California Department of Education is warning that parents should not homeschool their children without teachers' credentials or affiliation with a public school. Here are some of the best parts of the article:

Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin wrote a letter to California's state senators last month asking for a legislative solution to the issue and saying the state was wrongly accused of harassing home-schoolers.

Eastin has made no formal judgment about the educational value of home-schooling, but says all schooling needs to be supervised by professionally trained staff. "Home schools are not even subject to competition from private schools, where the marketplace would presumably ensure some level of quality and innovation," she said in the letter.

So all schooling needs to be supervised by professionally trained staff. I'm curious what the definition of "professional" is. Do incompetent public school teachers whose students can't read, write, or add count as "professionals"? I suspect "professional" means approved by the government. Eastin is almost making a pro-competition-in-education comment, but I'm sure she really doesn't want any competition to her authority and power in state educational matters.

Once considered on the fringe, home-schooling has grown in recent years as more parents are disillusioned with the quality of public schools. Advocates estimate there are up to 100,000 home-schooled children in the state and 2 million nationwide, figures that education officials could not confirm. Home-schooling has spawned a cottage industry of educational materials that are often sold and discussed at large annual conferences.

Home-schooling is considered legal in California only when students are taught by a credentialed tutor, a state-approved charter school, or enrolled in an independent study program supervised by a public school district. The public school affiliation requires home-schoolers to sign a contract of their involvement and entitles them to access to school resources. Aside from helping to account for children, the programs also keep the state eligible for some federal funding based on pupil attendance at home.

Can you believe that crap? This is nothing more than an attempt to keep the tax dollars flowing. You would think homeschooling would be popular among taxpayers, because there are less kids having $10,000 per year wasted in tax dollars on their substandard, unaccountable public education. But the state of California has created a regulatory barrier that keeps the tax dollars flowing to support failing public schools and to screw over taxpayers. I've long suspected schools diagnose children as disabled because there is extra federal funding per disabled pupil. This homeschooling funding scam helps prove my point what public schools are all about.

The state says it is easy to register as a private school. The form asks for basic information such as the school's address and the list of grades being taught, but does not require any investigation into the school's legitimacy.

California exempts private school teachers from having to earn the credentials required of public school teachers. David Kopperud, of the state Student Attendance Review Board, said truancy officials have historically left home-schoolers with private school status alone because it was rare to find a family that neglected to educate their children. He said school districts were already burdened by regular truancy cases in which officials were certain children were not learning.

In theory, a truancy investigation can be opened based on information gathered from private school forms that tellingly list the number of teachers as "one" and students as "one." Few school districts, cities and counties, however, have the resources to do that.

Of course, homeschooling parents are not neglecting to educate their children. These people have made a conscience choice to educate their children, because they love their children and the public schools are not capable or accountable.

In many counties, parents can be fined up to $500 for violating truancy laws. Los Angeles County has some of the strictest laws, calling for fines of up to $2,500 or a year in jail if parents refuse to comply.

Fascinating. The largest and most incompetent school system in California, Los Angeles Unified School District, has the largest fines to protect its power and status.

Some policy watchers say the state's interest in home-schooling is a product of the heightened attention placed on educational accountability, as advocated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Lawmakers in California and elsewhere have recently placed more restrictions on charter schools, a burgeoning area that mirrors the unrestricted growth of home-schooling.

A nice, vague comment written up by the Times writer. Who's saying this? Which policy watchers? Policy watchers in the government? Policy watchers in teachers unions? Policy watchers with a vested interest in keeping tax dollars flowing and quashing competition?

"There's a huge backlash" toward alternative education, said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates school choice. "You have increasing numbers of home-schoolers, charter schools, virtual schools and satellite schools. Now you have a federal law that says if public schools are failing, students can leave [for another school]. The threat to the status quo is enormous."

Well said. This is clearly about protecting the status quo, teachers unions, and government power. Anyone who reads this article and still believes the government is "looking out for the best interest of children," I want to get an e-mail from you explaining why and how you believe this.