Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other officials have told an appeals court there’s no need to dig into state constitutional issues regarding homeschooling since state laws already provide for that choice for parents.
The recommendations come in an amicus brief from California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and others on behalf of the state and its governor.
A ruling from the Court of Appeal in the 2nd District, Division 3 in a dispute stemming from a juvenile case earlier had declared that the state constitution provided no right for parents to school their children at home, threatening the education choice for hundreds of thousands of families across the state.
WND broke the story in February when that ruling was released, but it later simply was dropped when the same panel of judges agreed to rehear the case.
The panel, in announcing the rehearing, invited several interested parties to submit amicus briefs of the question of the constitutionality of homeschooling in California, including the state and its education department as well as several teachers’ unions.
Now the brief from Brown and Schwarzenegger said the court doesn’t have to work that hard to make a decision.
“Here, this court need not reach any constitutional issues because this petition can be decided entirely on statutory grounds,” the brief said. “The Education Code provides a broad statutory basis for homeschooling in California, setting forth three different avenues through which parents may legally homeschool their children.”
The brief said the trial court in the case at hand “addressed only the constitutional issues, it never considered the preliminary question of whether the parents had met the statutory requirements for homeschooling under the Education Act.”
“Accordingly, this court should remand to the trial court for proper consideration of that question in the first instance, and the constitutional issues should not be decided until such time that a resolution is ‘absolutely required … to dispose of the matter,'” the recommendation said.
“The governor’s brief supports the right of California parents to teach their children at home,” stated the governor’s press secretary, Aaron McLear. “It explains how the California Education Code already provides for homeschooling and urges the court to recognize and affirm this important right.”
An earlier amicus brief had been filed by
the Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of Sunland Christian Academy, the
private school that offers the independent program in which the family’s children were enrolled.
The father in the case is represented separately by the United States Justice Foundation and the Alliance Defense Fund, which have been working on the case’s main arguments to the court. Since the case originated with a juvenile court proceeding, some of the arguments and briefs have remained confidential, because of the standard for handling juvenile proceedings. Other briefs have been released publicly.
“The Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as Article 1, [paragraphs] 1 and
7, of the California Constitution, protect the fundamental due process and privacy liberties of Californians,” according to the
Pacific Justice brief, which cited court cases addressing the right to marry, establish a home and bring up children, the right for
parents to educate children as they choose, the “private realm of family life,” and others.
“The areas represent ‘a realm of personal liberty’ which the government may not enter,” said the filing.
The governor’s brief said the state provides options for students to be schooled at home with a licensed tutor or through a school independent study program. The third option is for parents, who are “persons capable of teaching” and have met the state records requirements, to teach their children at home.
The original opinion, later dropped, was written by Appeals Court Judge H. Walt Croskey and 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.'”
Homeschool advocates immediately expressed concern the original ruling would leave parents who educate their children
at home liable criminally as well as open to civil charges for child neglect that could create the potential for fines, court-ordered counseling or even loss of custody.
Also filing an amicus brief – this one on behalf of members of Congress – is Liberty Counsel.
The brief provides an overview of home education laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and notes that as early as 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the rights of parents to direct the education of their children.
“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only,” the high court said.
Oral arguments are scheduled in June.
The original opinion arose from a dependency case brought in juvenile court. In the process, attorneys assigned by the
court to the family’s two younger children sought a court order for them to be enrolled in a public or qualifying private
The district court denied the request citing parental rights, but the appellate court overturned the decision and granted the
attorneys’ request. The appeals court concluded the parents held neither a statutory right nor a constitutional
right to provide homeschooling to their own children.