By a 3-0 decision the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District has reversed its earlier ruling that would have required homeschooling parents to be certified teachers in order to homeschool in California.
In February the court ruled that California’s compulsory education law requires parents to send their children who are ages 6-18 to a full-time public or private school or to have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.
On Friday the same three-judge panel ruled that parents with or without teaching credentials can comply with the law by declaring their home to be a private school, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Parents still must file statements with their local school districts attesting that their children are being educated in all legally required subjects, in English, by a person "capable of teaching."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the decision “confirms the right every California child has to a quality education and the right parents have to decide what is best for their children.”
Justice H. Walter Croskey, author of the earlier ruling, wrote in the decision: "Recent statutes indicate that the Legislature is aware that some parents in California homeschool their children by declaring their homes to be private schools."
Judge Croskey noted that a 1998 measure exempting parents from fingerprinting requirements imposed on private school employees indicated “a legislative approval of homeschooling,” the San Francisco Chronicle says.
He added that the 1953 decision applying compulsory education without exceptions has been overruled by real world changes.
"Clinging to such precedent," he said, "would undermine a practice that has been, if not actively encouraged, at least acknowledged and accepted by officials and the public for many years."
The court stated that homeschooling is not an absolute right and may be revoked when children are abused or neglected.
Judge Croskey also advised that California might need to increase its oversight of those educated in home schools, given what he said is “the state's compelling interest in educating all of its children.”
A lawyer for the 330,000-member California Teachers Association in written arguments for the case criticized legally permissive approaches to homeschooling, claiming that unregulated, unsupervised homeschooling is an invitation to “educational anarchy.”
“Parents do not have an unfettered right to dictate the terms of their children's education,” the lawyer asserted, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Homeschooling advocates welcomed the decision.
“This is a great victory for homeschool freedom,” said Michael Farris, Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and one of the team of attorneys who argued the case before the court. “I have never seen such an impressive array of people and organizations coming to the defense of homeschooling. The team effort was remarkable.”
“Tens of thousands of California parents teaching over 166,000 homeschooled children are now breathing easier this afternoon,” Farris said in a statement.