Teaching credential needed to homeschool in California

A state appellate court recently ruled that California parents must have a teaching credential to homeschool their children.

Previously, the state has allowed homeschooling for parents without credentials if they established themselves as a small, private school, hired a credentialed teacher, or enrolled their child in an independent study program.

Aside from sending shockwaves up and down the state, the ruling has stirred dissent in Davis.

Approximately 60 students are currently enrolled at the Davis School for Independent Studies within the Davis Joint Unified School District, said DSIS director Marsha Ludwig.

I think that a parent is the primary educator of their children, whether in homeschool or school, she said. They know their children the best. They should be actively involved in the educational process of their children. [At DSIS,] they are enrolled in a public school, so parents don’t need to be credentialed.

Another estimated 150 families homeschool their children through an independent network in Davis, said homeschool parent Marcia Berry.

These days, with the lot of homework kids are taking home, parents are homeschooling anyway, she said. I take school out of it and put in that lot of time.

The availability of curriculum online or through school districts further defeats the need for any credentialing, Berry added.

There are so many canned curriculum support materials and online classes out there that it is not necessary to be credentialed, she said.

Thomas Timar, professor at the UC Davis School of Education, said he did not see the ruling as logical.

I thought the decision was very strange in general, Timar said. It didn’t make a great deal of sense. To require that students can only be homeschooled by people with credentials – it undermines the rationality of a private school … [especially] if they’re not funded by the state and there’s no state money involved.

A person must obtain a bachelor’s degree and complete a series of exams to earn a five-year preliminary teaching credential in California, according to a Mar. 7 Associated Press article.

Prosecuting parents without credentials would be a huge waste of time and money, Timar said.

They would have to get those parents back into school, and those children would be classified as truant, and they would have to go after those parents for violating truancy laws, he said.

Berry said the homeschool network in Davis would reject the ruling, as it would likely result in spending large amounts of school district resources to adequately try parents.

I don’t feel like it’s necessary, Berry said. There’s been quite an uproar statewide, and I don’t think school districts with their debts are going to go after noncredentialed parents. They have better things to do with their money.

The impetus for homeschooling children varies greatly, including religious reasons, goals for higher education or a focus on the family, Berry added.

My goals for my children are a college education, and each one will approach that differently, she said. A lot of it is family dynamic, and studies have shown that students learn better in small learning communities, and one-on-one teaching can give very good results very quickly.

Whether parents obtain credentials does not guarantee the quality of their child’s education, Timar said.

The quality of the homeschool varies greatly, as it can at any school, he said. There are good schools and bad schools in the state. Historically, what the state has done is [say] that if parents want to homeschool their children, let them, and not make an issue. If parents want that choice, they should have that.

Until the ruling is clarified by the state Department of Education, immediate impacts on the Davis community remain unresolved.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wanted to introduce legislation to clarify it. The legislature, including the chair of the Senate Committee on Education, had no opinion on it yet, while others on the committeewere in favor, Timar said.

I think everybody is waiting for the next shoe to drop, he said. They’re going to appeal the decision.

ANN KIM can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.

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