A court decision in California that threatens the future of homeschooling there and could align the state with Germany and Brazil as governments that prohibit parents from teaching their own children will be watched by the White House, according to spokeswoman Dana Perino.
She said President Bush has supported homeschooling students in the past and will await the outcome of the California process first.
Perino’s answer came to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House. He asked: “An appeals court in California has delivered a ruling that is being interpreted as banning homeschooling, and one advocacy group has suggested an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to recognize such parental rights. And my question: Is this a concept the president would support?”
“Obviously we’ve supported homeschoolers in the past. I’m not familiar with that legal decision out of the appeals court in California, but I’m sure it will probably be appealed, and then we’ll see how it goes from there,” she said.
WND broke the story in February of an order from an appeals court in Los Angeles against the family of Phillip and Mary Long.
The Longs say they have homeschooled because of an anti-Christian bias in public schools. The ruling stemmed from a juvenile proceeding that already had been closed by the court when court-appointed attorneys for their children appealed, specifically attempting to ban homeschooling. The ruling from Appeals Court Judge H. Walt Croskey granted the attorneys’ wishes.
The court ruling said: “We find no reason to strike down the Legislature’s evaluation of what constitutes an adequate education scheme sufficient to promote the ‘general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence. … We agree … ‘the educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education.'”
The appeals ruling said California law requires “persons between the ages of six and 18” to be in school, “the public full-time day school,” with exemptions being allowed for those in a “private full-time day school” or those “instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught.”
Nor did the family’s religious beliefs matter to the court.
Their “sincerely held religious beliefs” are “not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California’s compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights,” the court said.
The decision sent shockwaves through the homeschooling community across the nation, and statements denouncing it have come from people such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Public Instruction Superintendent Jack O’Connell and numerous pro-family organizations and leaders.
“The court cannot ‘make’ something illegal – that’s the legislature’s job. Sheesh!” wrote Jon Chi Lou, of Heritage Christian High School. And Hye-Sung F. Gehring added, “This is ridiculous. California is retarded. Always has been.”
Among the actions that have been launched in response:
- A petition is being organized by the Home School Legal Defense Association, to seek the “de-publication” of the ruling from the 2nd Appellate District Division 3 Court, so it would not be used as a precedent..
- A petition for rehearing has been submitted by Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation to the 2nd Appellate District Division on behalf of the Longs.
- Assemblyman Joel Anderson has proposed a resolution in the California Legislature that calls for the Croskey ruling to be overturned.
- Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights, then, as elected officials, we will.”
- California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said, “Parents still have the right to homeschool in this state.”
- A separate petition appeals to Schwarzenegger and the Legislature is being run by the Pacific Justice Institute, which is working with the website PetitionsToday.org.
- And yet another petition also is under way, at the ReverseTheRuling.com website. That organization offers information for homeschoolers who want to follow the California case, because of that state’s influence throughout the nation. It was assembled by the organization Learning By Grace, an outreach dedicated to providing parents with innovative online Christian homeschool materials.
The HSLDA also is suggesting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically recognizing parental rights. That effort already is under way under the banner of Parental Rights.
Pacific Justice also is representing Sunland Christian School, which has been working with the family’s children in a study program, on an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The Private and Home Educators of California organization is posting a list of updates on the situation and also a legal fact sheet for families that want to homeschool in California.
A second question from Kinsolving raised the issue of border security.
“Page 1 of the Washington Times reported that the Department of Homeland Security spent $20 million on a virtual fence to better secure 28 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona but has no way to measure its effectiveness and never consulted with the field agents who will use the system before it was installed. And my question: Since illegal immigration is a very serious national problem, could you tell us what does the head of the nation think about this Page 1 bad news?” he asked.
Perino said she hadn’t talked about the issue with the president.
“Let me refer you over to Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Chertoff about it. Obviously we have taken…,” she said.
“Will you talk to the president about it?” Kinsolving asked.
“I don’t know if I’ll see him today before he leaves for camp, but obviously this president has worked very hard on border security as well as other aspects of immigration. And so let me refer you to Department of Homeland Security for questions about that particular contract,” she said.
A day earlier Kinsolving raised the issue of members of the Congressional Black Caucus rejecting a new member because of his race and participation by Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama in that group.
“California’s Democrat Congressman Fortney Stark, who you may remember risked his life in civil rights advocacy in the 1960s, was refused admittance into the Congressional Black Caucus because of his white race. And my question: Does the White House know if Sen. Obama refused to join this racially segregated caucus, as did Oklahoma’s former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts?”
“You know I’m not going to talk about ’08 politics. I told you that before,” Perino said.
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