Home schooling is a viable option
Taking aim one last time with her political gun, outgoing Superintendent of Public Schools Delaine Eastin chose to direct her final bullets at the group she and other partisans of the education establishment love to hate — home school families.
In the waning days of the legislative session, Eastin publicly declared that in her opinion, home schooling was illegal in California. Working feverishly, she dispatched letters and drummed up news coverage, putting home school 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 home schooling option. If such a charter school didn’t exist in their neighborhood, well, too bad.
At the time, a 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, home schooling 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 home school your child, you are not doing anything wrong. Home schooling is perfectly legal in California and has been for more than 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 who isn’t sitting inside a state sponsored classroom.
I remain deeply committed to public education, where my children learned and grew. However, I believe the best thing for public education is the presence of alternatives to the conventional model — charter schools, private schools and home school.
Denying parents these options may increase public school populations, but it will not benefit anyone except bureaucrats and teacher unions.
If Eastin had focussed 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 home school 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”:
n 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.
n The man who won the Civil War and brought an end to slavery in America, Abraham Lincoln, is hardly mentioned. Instead, attention is lavished on a new pantheon of politically correct “heroes.”
n America’s flaws and shameful moments are repeatedly highlighted, while its noble sacrifices and tremendous contributions to the world are overlooked. Apparently, the goal is to teach impressionable children to be ashamed rather than proud of their country.
n Communists are often presented as victims, with no mention of the terrible atrocities committed by communist officials around the world, which continue to this day in China, North Korea and Cuba.
For other home school parents, the issue is simply quality of education.
According to the Oct. 14 issue of Time magazine, “more than 600,000 of the freshmen who arrived at U.S. colleges this fall — remarkably, 29 percent of the total — are taking at least one remedial reading, writing, or math class.” No wonder some parents believe they can do better by teaching their kids.
Given the education establishment’s checkered record — in terms of values taught and quality of education — it is certainly understandable that between 400,000 and 600,000 children are taught at home. And lest there be any doubt, these children are not languishing. Every study done on home schooled students, including several by state governments, have concluded such pupils perform better by every measure. According to a USA Today report several years back, even home schooled kids’ social skills often surpass those of their publicly schooled peers.
Regardless of one’s own education preference, I think we can all agree that home schooling is — and should remain — a viable option for California’s parents. It is my hope that Delaine Eastin’s successor, Jack O’Connell, will embrace this view. Home school parents aren’t the enemy. They are partners in our shared goal: giving all children the best education they can get.
Tim Leslie represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes South Lake Tahoe. He may be reached at (916) 319-2004.
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