Delaine Eastin Seeks Regulation of Homeschoolers

November 28, 2004
by: Annette M. Hall

Delaine Eastin, in her new roll as Executive Director of the National Institute for School Leadership in Washington, D.C. is up to her old tricks, stirring up animosity between the homeschool community and public school adherents.

Eastin served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for California from 1995 to 2003. Prior to her election as state superintendent, she served four terms in the California State Assembly, serving as chair of the Assembly's Committee on Education. During her term, she was an outspoken opponent of home education and a parent's right to direct the education of their children.

Many have offered that if Ms. Eastin had been inclined to expend as much time doing her job, fixing the glaring problems of the public school system she served, insteaded of wasting precious energy in opposition to homeschoolers, California students within the public schools would have faired better.

During Eastin's term, she erroneously asserted that homeschooling parents must be certified teachers, holding a current teaching certificate or teach under the oversight of a public school independent study program or be enrolled in a charter school program. A position that is clearly not supported under California law.

This fact is underscored by the repeated backing-down of CDE representatives within their own legal department. California Homeschool Network's legal team has maintained many times over the past decade that the intent of California law is clearly stated and allows for parents to instruct their children, without interference from public school administrators.

Carolyn Pirillo worked under Eastin in the CDE legal office. She systematically sent letters to public school officials advising them of the position of the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding home education, even going so far as to misrepresent the law to the general public by allowing the posting of inaccurate information on the official state website. This action caused confusion and apprehension for parents interested in homeschooling their children and increased the work load on homeschool leaders, calming unfounded fears.

Private School Affidavit - Available Online

At various times the battle became fierce between the two forces. Prior to leaving her California office Ms. Eastin wrote a pointed letter to all California legislators requesting that legislation be drawn up and passed to ensure that homeschoolers were held accountable to the state and her misinterpretation of the law.

The legislators promptly ignored her request, having far more pressing matters to attend to.

Since her departure relationships have improved between the homeschool community and the CDE. There are still occasional ripples between the two factions. Two years ago, the legal department at the CDE had returned many statements-in-lieu, which homeschoolers had submitted in place of using the more arduous private school affidavit provided by the state. The state form, available online or by mail, requires considerably more information than is required under California statutes, as such many homeschoolers choose to submit a simple statement as prescribed by California law.

The CDE attorneys attempted to disallow them, stating the forms did not meet legal requirements. California Homeschool Network's legal team went to work addressing the issue, which was promptly resolved with the CDE conceding that the forms met all legal requirements established under the law.

In a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal Ms. Eastin is quoted as saying, "We're making such a fuss about accountability for some and no accountability for others, shouldn't we pay some attention to the homeschoolers?"

Ms. Eastin seems unable to grasp the difference between public and private education. Public educators should be held accountable to public standards and performance guidelines set forth by the state because taxpayers are footing the ever increasing bill.

It has been noted that if public schools were held to standard business practices, they would have been out of business long ago. The schools are highly ineffective and a costly enterprise, the results of which are by and large unacceptable. Parents who choose to take on the task of educating their own children at home, should be held in high-esteem. Not only are they taking on a considerable burden, they are saving taxpayers billions of dollars in education funding. Furthermore, homeschoolers are by all accounts doing a commendable job, most with limited resources and often facing tough opposition.

Ms. Eastin makes the claim that "federal and state governments are ignoring homeschoolers." She should follow their lead. Parents can not possibly do any worse than public educators have done.

Her assessment is skewed, as most states have some form of homeschool law or recognize homeschooling through the private school exemption. Homeschoolers are required to comply with the law in their given state. Over half the states require some form of monitoring to track student progress. Studies have shown when comparing homeschooled students in states where there is no evaluation requirement, against those homeschooled students that have to submit to standardized testing and return those results to the state, there is no appreciable difference in scores.

It makes little sense to expend valuable resources regulating homeschoolers. Regulation makes no difference in the performance of a homeschooled student, it merely serves to increase the cost of education to the state [read taxpayers] and provides for more employment opportunities within state bureaucracies. It does absolutely nothing to improve student performance and adds nothing to the quality of educational opportunities.

Homeschool parents have demonstrated their competency over many years and there is absolutely no justification for following Ms. Eastin's advice to increase federal and state government regulation of homeschoolers. In the field of education the government has only been successful at one thing - standardization.

Standardization assumes that all children are equal in intelligence and in motivation, it caters to the lowest common denominator in the classroom. It is not designed to optimize the educational experience of the individual and does not take into account the individual strengths and weaknesses of the student. Homeschoolers have long known that this model is not in the best interest of the children it serves.