The state of California is busy attacking that great enemy of civilization: home schooling. This renewed assault on home schooling — and the general hostility to private education — provides an important lesson about the greed and ideology that drives the public school establishment, and especially the unions that control it.
The education of children at home by their parents has become extremely popular nationally, with latest estimates putting the number of American children being schooled at home somewhere between 1.5 to 1.9 million.
Many states simply allow home schooling as a substitute for public or private education with little or no regulation. Not surprisingly, California's policy is more restrictive, requiring home school families to formally register as "private schools" in order to bypass mandatory public school attendance.
The state's latest assault does not come from any change in law, but instead takes the form of an attempted manipulation by education bureaucrats of the paperwork process required for home school families to register under the private school exception. Essentially, the state Department of Education has argued that a home school family no longer fits the definition of a "private school" and therefore cannot file the required affidavit.
This particular crisis will pass — in fact, the state has already begun to backpedal. But it points to a larger battle that will continue to be fought in California and, to varying degrees, across the nation. The public education establishment — dominated by teachers' unions — claims to have the best interest of schoolchildren in mind. If this is so, then its hostility to home schooling must stem from a belief that a public education is of better quality than one provided by home schooling. But even the most ardent defenders of the public school establishment find it difficult to make this argument with any seriousness.
A recent national study revealed that home-schooled children were far superior to their cohorts in academic subjects across the board. In standardized tests of reading, language, math, listening, science, social studies, and study skills, home-schoolers posted average scores ranging from the 80th percentile to the 87th percentile — in contrast to the national average represented by the 50th percentile. And this data merely confirm what experience continues to teach. It is now common, for example, to hear of home-schoolers winning honors in national spelling and geography competitions at numbers astoundingly out of proportion to their overall percentage of the population.
So if it is not about ensuring the quality of education, why does the public education establishment loathe home schooling? It boils down to dollars and ideology.
Public schools often receive funds from state and federal grants that are based upon the number of students they have enrolled. The more students they lose to private education, the fewer dollars public school systems have to spend. This is why the massive deficit in California's education budget helps to explain the present assault on home schooling.
But there are some problems with this logic. First, parents who privately educate their children — whether at home or in a private school — still pay the full amount of property tax that goes to supporting the local public school system. So they contribute plenty of money to public schools, even though not a dime of it goes to educating their own kids. Second, even if a state were successful at shutting down home schooling, very few of the affected families would then turn around and send their children to public schools. The vast majority would be sent to private or religious schools, and so the public school system would receive little in additional state or federal funding. Third, this whole logic assumes that more money means better education. The facts simply don't bear this out. Religious schools and home schools, where the expenditure per student pales in comparison to the public school system, consistently produce better educated young men and women.
But just as much as money, it is ideology that drives the public school establishment and its masters in the teachers' unions. The liberal ideology that pervades public school education is relativistic and secular — it seeks to undermine any moral distinction that children might be inclined to make between right and wrong. This is why, for example, students are taught about homosexuality in many public schools and encouraged to accept it as merely another legitimate "lifestyle choice." Exposure to such culture goes under the guise of "socialization" — a buzzword for anti-home-schoolers.
By contrast, the values of the typical home-schooler are those of the traditional family, and home-schoolers consequently produce young men and women who stand as a well educated resistance to the dominant liberal ideology of those controlling the public school establishment.
The establishment and its unions know this, and they want to take away your ability and right to instill in your children the moral and intellectual principles that you hold dear. Their assumption is simple: it is the state that owns children, and the upbringing and education of children is contingent upon the state's supervision and approval. Home-schoolers represent one of the last bastions of independent thinking from this state-driven ideology, and so they can expect the assaults on them to continue and intensify.