Not really. The way it works there is that each family who chooses to educate at home either signs on with a virtual academy or declares itself a discrete private school and goes from there. The caveat is that the private schools do not have to be accredited to be acknowledged as permitted. And so it has gone, for quite some time.
Recently, as most homeschoolers who do not live under a rock will know, an appellate court ruled that such "unqualified individuals" as parents should not be teaching their children. As a result, one family's court drama has suddenly impacted thousands upon thousands of lives in California.
The HSLDA has gotten involved, filing an amicus brief with the courts in an attempt to get the ruling restricted to the one family in questions, instead of applying to the rest of the state. The goal, called depublication, is a decision that can only be made by the California Supreme Court. "If the Court determines that the decision should stand, regarding this family, on the facts presented, but that the general pronouncements of law for all of homeschooling should not be determined by this case, then the Court has the option of “depublishing” the Court of Appeal’s decision. This would mean that the case is not binding precedent in California and has no effect on any other family."
Luckily for the Californians, Governor Schwarzenegger issued a statement in opposition to recent Second District Court of Appeals ruling on home schooling. He said on his blog that
"Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.”
I am optimistic about the outcome for California; not only do they have a strong HSLDA membership (at least 13500 families), they have the support of both the governor and numerous celebrities (read: money) who homeschool. I am not an HSLDA member, nor would I choose to be, but they've gotten the info out there. Further, Home Education magazine has issued a calmer, more thoughtful approach to the proceedings and have posted extensive information here. I reiterate, I am not that worried about it in the sense that I think the Californians will handle it.
What has been curious for me is the local commentary in reaction to this highly publicized debacle. In the ruling, one judge cites "a primary purpose" of education as training "school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.
The issue has snowballed from punishing one abusive family who really didn't deserve to homeschool to endangering the rights of thousands of others. It annoys me significantly that there are homeschoolers I know online who just don't get why this would effect us here in Washington. They have a myopic view of it: "That's California, not Washington," or "We're not abusing our kids, so we're not at risk here." Worst, "I am technically a public schooler, because I use a virtual academy." That one really strikes me as naive.
Any time a court at that level sets a precedent like this one, it's a bad thing for the home educating parent at large. Not only are the judges admitting that public education is not about imbuing the children with knowledge, but about creating malleable little state subjects, they are stating in their decision that parents are unqualified to teach their children and have no right to even question the curriculum that is being used in the process. Those ideas strike at both curriculum choice and parental instruction, impacting the fitness of a parent to teach at home regardless of whether she is homeschooling or accessing a virtual school. If something were to happen to your virtual academy, as happened recently in Wisconsin, what then would you do? Your kids are home for a reason. If homeschooling is taken away but you're ok with that because you still have a virtual academy, do you honestly believe that the people who think parental choice in curriculum and home instruction is wrong are going to then leave you alone? Most teachers are fine human beings, but they are fully indoctrinated into that system: they perceive each child out of school as representative of money being taken away from the school. They believe-- and many seem to agree-- that more funds will equal a better education. Clearly, I am not in agreement with that.
As for my family, we will support the (Federal) Constitutional right of parents to educate their children as they see fit, everywhere in the US.