PRO/CON: Curbing parental control

March 29, 2008, midnight | By Sean Howard, Charles Kong | 16 years ago

Should home-schooling parents be forced to have certification?

A three-judge panel of the California District Court of Appeals ruled on Feb. 28 that parents statewide who do not have teaching credentials can no longer home school their children. The ruling stems from a case involving eight home-schooled children who claimed that their parents were abusing them. Citing a 1953 ruling in which another appellate court rejected a challenge to California's education laws, Justice Walter Croskey ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children. But parents argue that the approximately 166,000 home schooled students in California will be forced to enroll in conventional schools - an enormous undertaking. Should Maryland, with its 24,329 home-schooled students, follow in California's footsteps?

Charles Kong says yes: All educators, including home-schooling parents, should be certified in order to teach students.

While the California District Court of Appeals ruled that parents must be credentialed to teach home school based on past precedent, its ruling appeals to common sense as well. In a society where a solid education is vital to the success and survival of all people in the workforce, it is essential that those responsible for teaching our nation's future be qualified to do so.

College students pursue degrees in order to dedicate themselves to a specialized field of interest, whether it is engineering, business, medicine or any other field. As a result of this specialization, society can divide all necessary tasks among the workforce. Automobile mechanics will repair cars, accountants will manage finances and surgeons will operate on the human body. Just as there is not a true jack-of-all-trades who can innately do everything, there is not a parent who innately knows everything his child should learn about math, science and the humanities. If a barber must be certified to cut hair and a doctor needs an M.D. to treat patients, then it is only fair that an adult also be credentialed to educate children.

Furthermore, issues with security and safety could pose major problems for home-schooled children, as seen with the children of the abusive parents involved in the California court case. While administrators and security personnel in public and private schools are able to oversee the competence and behavior of their teachers, home-schooling parents have the freedom to do anything they want, as their actions are hidden to all outsiders. Hired tutors and credentialed teachers can at least be monitored and regulated, since they will be punished if they engage in malpractice.

Requiring all adults to be credentialed will ensure a safer and healthier environment for students. Often, profit-making charter schools specializing in home schooling contain many teachers without credentials. The court partly based their decision on a report that the majority of California's dropouts are from charter or alternative schools. The estimated 120,000 dropouts per year in California are expected to cost the state $46.4 billion over their lifetimes, due to their likelihood to be unemployed, turn to crime, need state-funded medical care, get welfare or pay no taxes, according to the California Dropout Research Project.

Many may argue that forcing parents to have credentials would effectively end home schooling altogether, as it will be impractical for parents to spend years to become qualified. But there are numerous ways for a parent to have their children home schooled. Parents can become credentialed and file paperwork with the state establishing their home as a small private school, hire a credentialed tutor to educate their children or enroll their children in independent study programs.

Home schooling is an excellent way to educate a child, but it must be done appropriately. A well-qualified and credentialed educator is the proper person to teach students, ensuring them a well-rounded education while maintaining a safe learning environment.

Sean Howard says no: Maryland does not need to require that home-schooling parents are certified.

Unlike California, Maryland law sufficiently ensures that home-schooled students are receiving a quality education. It would be irresponsible for the state of Maryland to force parents who home school their children to become certified teachers, as it would place unnecessary costs, burdens and strains on the child's education and family.

Maryland law requires home-schooling parents to maintain a portfolio of relevant teaching materials and schedule a date three times a year for the local superintendent to review and discuss the portfolio. If the superintendent rules that the portfolio is not sufficient, the family has thirty days to remedy the deficiencies or cease home schooling. This law sufficiently ensures that parents are adequately providing for their home-schooled children, so a regulation requiring that parents become qualified is not necessary.

Furthermore, if Maryland were to use California's precedent, all parents who home school their children would be forced to hire a certified tutor or be certified by the state to teach their children. This means that parents would have to stop teaching in order to study for a certification exam and pay a fee to be certified, or spend a small fortune hiring a tutor for their child or enroll their children in public school to learn in a starkly unfamiliar environment. None of these outcomes would benefit the children the ruling planned to help.

Homeschooling is increasingly becoming recognized as a viable alternative to traditional institutional education with around 1.3 million home-schooled students nationwide in 2007, according to the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES). One ruling in California should not set a precedent that severely constrains a practice that manages to educate so many children at such a small cost to states. According to the Department of Education, around 72 percent of home-schooled children are home schooled because their parents want to provide them with moral and religious guidance. Some people choose to home school in order to challenge their child, keep their child safe or to better facilitate the child's extra-curricular activities.

The decision to force instructors to be certified challenges parents' right to home school their children and discredits the education that home-schooled children receive. Home-schooled students can and do shine as much as their public school counterparts. As long as they are deemed to be receiving the right education by the county superintendent or their designees, there is no reason to impose a draconian measure to certify parents in Maryland.

Tags: Pro/Con

Sean Howard. There is a spy among us and his name is Sean Howard. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sean moved to Germantown prior to his current residence in Gaithersburg. Although he has now lived in Maryland for most of his life, he has retained his loyalty to … More »

Charles Kong. Charles Kong loves to play tennis. Actually, he likes to play sports in general. He tries not to procrastinate, but his success rate varies. He likes listening to music and using the computer, and loves Jackie Chan movies. He is super excited for Chips, even … More »

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