With the battle lines drawn, a state appeals court in Los Angeles today will once again consider a controversial case that could drastically affect the growing home-school movement in California.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a legal fight over whether parents who home-school their children must have teaching credentials. The same appeals court earlier this year sent shock waves through the nation’s home-schooling movement, finding that parents who lack teaching credentials are violating California’s compulsory-education laws if they home-school their children.
No other state has that requirement.
The ruling triggered protests from top state education officials, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, prompting the appeals court to reopen the case in March. Since that time, both sides in the home-schooling debate have filed stacks of briefs to weigh in on an issue that arose by happenstance out of a Los Angeles child welfare case.
The appeals court has 90 days to rule, which would result in a decision sometime around the start of the next school year. The California Supreme Court may still have the last word in the case.
Home-schooling advocates estimate that more than 160,000 children are now home-schooled in California, most of them by parents without teaching credentials.
Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell have urged the appeals court to reverse its earlier decision. They’re joined by the California Homeschool Association and various conservative groups.
The California Teachers Association is among the groups arguing that children should only be taught by credentialed instructors, warning the appeals court that it would create “educational anarchy” if home-schoolers can teach without credentials.
California law requires children between 6 and 18 years old to attend a full-time public or private school, or be taught by someone with a credential for the student’s grade level.
The law has seldom been enforced for home-schooling parents, but the appeals court’s previous ruling put those parents in jeopardy of running afoul of those education laws. State education officials have typically left oversight of home-schooling to individual school districts.