Homeschooling in the Golden State

I was asked what I thought about the ruling issued this week by the California Apellate Court that declared homeschooling to be illegal in the state of California. Before I share my thoughts, I thought I'd provide some news articles:
On January 10th, 2008, The Californian Newspaper reported :

"The governor has touted 2008 as "the year of education" in California, but after Thursday's budget address, educators may be calling it "the year of slim pickings." In the address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $141 billion state budget for the year starting July 1 that would slash nearly 10 percent of the funding for public education as part of a plan to erase an estimated $14.5 billion revenue shortfall over the next 18 months.
Schwarzenegger proposed reducing education spending by $4.4 billion, of which $400 million already promised to schools in this fiscal year would be held back."



Just over one month later, on February 21st, the Los Angeles Times reported:

"California's budget shortfall has swollen to $16 billion from $14.5 billion..."



On the same day, the Associated Press also commented on the estimated shortfall in California's budget:

"California's nonpartisan fiscal watchdog on Wednesday said the state's budget shortfall has grown to $16 billion...last month, Schwarzenegger pegged the shortfall at $14.5 billion through June 2009...Schwarzenegger proposed cutting $4 billion from classrooms..."



So, prior to this story, California's financial situation was already bleak. Governor Schwarzenegger has already proposed taking four billion dollars from the public schools to help solve the budget shortfall. I doubt our liberal legislature will take anywhere near that amount, but there will probably be a compromise of budget trimming and tax increases when it is all said and done. Regardless, spending needs to slow and revenue will need to increase.

Here's the deal, in California there are 6.2 million enrolled students in the public school system. Right now...without doing anything...there is not enough money in the budget to educate these kids (well, actually there is enough money...we're just wasting it on social programming and illegal residents...sheesh!). I tried to find out how many kids are homeschooled in California and couldn't find a consistent number...but the estimated range of homeschoolers is near 200,000 (of those that have reported their kids to the government).

First, the last thing the California legislature wants is an extra 200,000 kids "in the system." Besides the financial burden, there is an issue of needing more space in already crowded schools and having to hire more educators (which means more administration...and more on-campus cops!). For example, in our local town, the high school was built to hold 900 kids. In 2003, there were 2,400 kids on campus (portable buildings galore!). The town petitioned the voters to pass a local measure to build a new high school, which was completed in 2007. The new school is full of students and the first high school still has over 1,400 in attendance. Aside from the grass roots petitions and lobbying that they will receive, the legislature will understand that this simple court ruling does not pencil out in the budget. Someone just needs to follow the money trail and find out the truth...private homeschoolers pay for a system they don't use...and then pay again to educate their children...they need more people to homeschool, not less!

Second, the last thing the California Department of Education (and each County Board of Education) wants are a bunch of home educated kids (...or actually, their high standard setting parents!) showing up for class, board meetings, etc... Can you imagine the demands that will be placed on teachers, administration, board members when these kids get injected into the system? Have you ever found two homeschooling families to even agree on math curriculum? Can you imagine what happens when the new curriculum is issued every year... This will take some forward thinking, but the court ruling is only setting up more grief, not less!

Third, Conservative Christian homeschoolers are the ones that have voiced the most concern in the past few days. But, they are not the only ones to home educate in California. There are many liberal non-Christian homeschoolers in this state that recognize the same broken education system and have pulled their children out for different reasons. Like me, they do not want to suddenly re-introduce their children back into the system. They may not be as organized as the Christian homeschool community, but my point is that the legislature will hear from constituents throughout the state and from both sides of the political spectrum.

Fourth, it's an election year... We haven't heard from our congressional leadership, but as of today...several state legislators, the state superintendent of schools and the governor have all weighed in their support of homeschooling families.

What about us? As of now, we're not moving. California is still sunny and warm and we can still homeschool the mangokids. If we did move...it would be to the tropics...we will homeschool under beach umbrellas and stop to watch the breeze on the ocean. Homeschool classes will include surfing and sailing, and we will teach the mangokids how to make hats out of palm fronds... We will sleep more in the afternoon...and Kendra and I will grow old on beans, salsa and lime-stuffed coronas...

quietly making noise,
fletch