John Stossel

The cat is finally out of the bag. A California appellate court, ruling that parents have no constitutional right to homeschool their children, pinned its decision on this ominous quotation from a 47-year-old case, "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train schoolchildren in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

There you have it; a primary purpose of government schools is to train schoolchildren "in loyalty to the state." Somehow that protects "the public welfare" more than allowing parents to homeschool their children, even though homeschooled kids routinely outperform government-schooled kids academically. In 2006, homeschooled students had an average ACT composite score of 22.4. The national average was 21.1.

Justice H. Walter Croskey said, "California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice Croskey said.

If that is the law in California, then Charles Dickens's Mr. Bumble is right: "the law is a ass, a idiot."

The California Constitution says, "A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement."

That doesn't appear to rule out homeschooling, unless you read it as a grant of absolute power to politicians.

Admittedly, the education code is vague. It requires children to attend public school or a private school (where certified teachers are not required). But they can also be taught by state-credentialed tutors. Homeschooling is not directly addressed. There's disagreement over what that means. The court and the teachers' union claim homeschooling is illegal unless the teaching parent has state credentials.

Homeschooling parents, many of whom have declared their homes private schools, say what they do is legal. Up till now that's been fine with the California Department of Education. And California reportedly has 166,000 homeschoolers.

Nationwide, the National Center for Education Statistics says that in 2003 (the latest year for which it has a number), almost 1.1 million children were being homeschooled. The numbers keep increasing, so clearly homeschooling parents think their kids get something better at home than they would from public schools.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate