Parents as teachers: Home schooling under fire in California

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Schools often say that "a parent is a child's first teacher." However, that adage never claimed that the parent should have a degree in education. A recent ruling in California argues that parents who home school their children must be credentialed to do so, sending shock waves not just through California but home schooling communities across the nation. "This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California. If the state supreme court does not reverse this...there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, representing the defendants in the case.

Until now, home schoolers and the government have long lived with an ambiguous legal framework, in part because of government fear of treading on religious freedoms. Although California's Education Code says that students not enrolled in school "can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor," the state department of education has never interpreted or enforced an operative definition of "credentialed." The state's appellate court proved to be much less timid, stating unequivocally that "parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children."

While home-schooling advocates appeal the decision to the state supreme court, Governor Schwarzenegger and state superintendent Jack O'Connell have vowed that parents will continue to have the right to home school their children in California. The teachers unions will be watching from the sidelines. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, weighed in on the lower court decision: "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher."