by Fred E. Foldvary
Parents must pay school taxes but may not teach their kids
On February 28, 2008, California judges of the 2nd District Court of Appeals confirmed the power of the State of California to impose a government monopoly on education. They ruled that parents are legally forbidden to home-school their children unless they have obtained a teaching credential from the state. The credential requires courses in education. The judge who wrote the ruling stated that parents "do not have a constitutional right to home school their children."
When government officials claim that parents have no constitutional right to home-school their children, they nullify the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that there are rights the people have even if they are not stated in the constitution. California has a similar clause in article I, section 24 of its constitution: “This declaration of rights may not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.”
The United States Supreme Court, in the Oregon School Case of 1925 (Pierce vs Society of Sisters), overturned a state law, which had been promoted by the Ku Klux Klan, that required all children in the first eight grades to attend governmental rather than private or parochial schools. The Court declared:
"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 teacher's only. This child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty, to recognize, and prepare him for additional duties.”
The judges did not explain why the right to home-school their children is not a 9th-Amendment and I-24 right. They also failed to adhere to the Oregon School Case. When government ignores people’s natural rights, then it is saying that “might makes right,” that the majority can impose any law they wish. Moreover, by ignoring the state constitution, in effect we do not have rule of law but of the men in power.
The judge was enforcing California’s Education Code section 48224, which requires an instructor of a child to hold a valid state credential. But that law violates the natural right of a parent to educate his or her child, and the California and U.S. Constitutions which recognize rights even if not explicitly stated.
One could argue that children have a natural right to a proper education, but economists who have studied education have found that the quality of education has no relation to the education credentials of the teachers. Credentials are an input; what counts is the output: learning.
This ruling on home schools comes at a time when the government of California has a budget crisis and is severely cutting state spending for education. The governor seeks a $4.5 billion cut in the education budget. The state has sent 14,000 layoff notices to teachers, reducing the state’s teaching staff by four percent. By prohibiting home schooling, the judge will force the schools to become even more crowded, which will accelerate the deterioration of the quality of education.
Society has an interest in well-educated children, but it has no legitimate right to dictate who shall instruct the children. Government schools in the U.S. have failed to properly educate children. There is a high drop-out rate, and tests have shown a poor understanding of the sciences and low skills in mathematics and writing. The federalization of education has failed to make any difference. In contrast, home schooling has been successful.
Home schoolers are no longer isolated islands. There are networks of home educators, and there are books and teaching aids for home schooling, including computerized instruction. Critics claim that home schooling deprives children of social contact with other children, but that is not the case, as home schoolers join together to provide recreation and field trips for the children.
Some California state legislators have authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution 115 to request the California Supreme Court to overturn the judge’s ruling. Some parents choose to home-school their children not just to provide better education but to avoid many of the problems plaguing children in government schools.
Large government schools let the youth culture dominate the life of the students. Bullies get away with stealing money from children and beating them up. Rude students disrupt the classroom and disrespect teachers. Students bring knives to school, and drug use is common.
Many parents also seek particular methods of education, such as phonics for reading, and some seek religious education for their children. Parents have a natural right to educate their children in their culture so that their ancestral language and heritage may be perpetuated.
The state seeks a monopoly in education not to improve learning but to homogenize children and make them conform to the majority culture and also to get used to factory-type work. The federal government previously kidnapped American Indian children and sent them to boarding schools where they were prohibited from speaking their native languages. Australia did the same thing to its aboriginal people, an injustice for which its government recently apologized.
Likewise government schooling sought to assimilate diverse immigrants into a conformist mainstream American culture. Reciting the pledge of allegiance, starting and stopping at the ring of a bell, sitting in rows, enduring boring drills, and adhering to school dress codes are all intended to acclimate pupils to the factory or office cubicle where they endure mind-dulling routines for a paycheck after taxes have been deducted.
Parents who home-school their children can benefit from courses on education, but it should not be a state mandate. The California legislature should repeal the credentialing requirements of Code section 48224 and allow free choice in schooling. It is bad enough that parents who home school must pay taxes to educate other people’s children while bearing the full expense of their home schools, but to have to get a credential like a government-school teacher has no justification other than to enforce the dominance of the state and the teachers’ union.
This article first appeared in the Progress Report, www.progress.org. Reprinted with permission.
Dr. Fred Foldvary teaches economics at Santa Clara University and is the author of several books: The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and the Dictionary of Free-Market Economics.