No Place Left to Turn for Homeschoolers
- Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Taking aim one last time with her political gun, outgoing [California] Superintendent of Public Schools Delaine Easton chose to direct her final bullets at the group she and other partisans of the education establishment love to hate: homeschool families.
In the waning days of the Legislative session, Eastin publicly declared that in her opinion, homeschooling was illegal in California. Working feverishly, she dispatched letters and drummed up news coverage, putting homeschool parents on notice.
If they didn't want their children to be truant, said Eastin, they had best register with an "approved" charter school that had a homeschooling option. If such a charter school didn't exist in that parent's neighborhood, well, too bad.
At the time, a local TV station interviewed me about the controversy. To my chagrin, I found the words, "It's a dastardly deed that Delaine Eastin has done" slipping from my lips. Granted, it wasn't the most erudite remark I've made in my legislative career. Few statements, however, have been more on target.
Eastin's attack was indeed "dastardly" because her claims were simply wrong, and the error sent tens of thousands of Californians into unnecessary panic. For weeks, homeschooling parents flooded my office with letters, e-mails, and phone calls, seeking reassurance that Eastin was mistaken. They did not wish to be labeled -- even in the interest of doing what was best for their children -- as lawbreakers.
Rest assured, if you homeschool your child, you are not doing anything wrong. Homeschooling is perfectly legal in California and has been for over 100 years. Eastin's assault was simply an attempt to force more kids into traditional public schools, which lose roughly $4,000 for every child that isn't sitting inside a state-sponsored classroom.
I personally remain deeply committed to public education, where my own children learned and grew. However, I believe the very best thing for public education is the presence of alternatives to the conventional model -- charter schools, private schools and home schools. Denying parents these options may increase public school populations, but it will not benefit anyone except bureaucrats and teachers unions.
If Eastin had focused her eight years in office upon education fundamentals like reading, writing, math and history, it seems likely she would not now feel the need to force students back into traditional settings. Instead, while test scores remain dismal, Eastin poured much of her energy into politically correct causes -- diversity mandates, sensitivity training, and promoting anything-goes tolerance.
Some homeschool parents simply don't want Eastin's view of the world, which is shared by much of the education establishment, pushed on their children. Take, for example, the contents of textbooks such as Bridges to Literature and American Literature: "America's military is consistently portrayed as the perpetrator of a host of ill-deeds, with no mention of the noble sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and how they have kept us free.
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