The State Assembly passed AB1444 on May 28th. It has also passed the State Senate Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. It has been placed in the suspense file. This means that it was passed but set aside for the financial impact to be considered later.
Bills put into the suspense file are heard again after the state budget is prepared. Some bills put in the suspense file seem to never find their way out and others go to the full senate for a vote. I'm not sure what will happen to this one. We'll keep you informed if it gets scheduled to go to the full senate for a vote.
This bill is identical to AB 1772 which previously died in committee. It would require one year of kindergarten prior to entering 1st grade in public school. It does not change the compulsory education law and would not impact homeschooling options. See the full text of the bill here.
To find your own state representative: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/
HSC attorney, Debbie Schwarzer, wrote the following analysis of AB 1772 which also applies directly to AB 1444 (the current bill):
AB 1772 was introduced by Joan Buchanan (Contra Costa County) and her intent is crystal clear: no kindergarten, then no first grade.
Buchanan's bill leaves the compulsory school attendance age as 6-18, but adds a new section to the Education Code, Section 48001, that reads as follows: “48001. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, a child shall complete one year of kindergarten before he or she may be admitted to the first grade.”
In addition, she would amend another Section of the Education Code, Section 48010, as follows:
“48010. (a) A child shall be admitted to the first grade of an elementary school during the first month of a school year if the child has completed one year of kindergarten and will have his or her sixth birthday on or before one of the following dates [with the existing language about cut-off birthdays left intact].”
There is no mistaking what this means: any six year old child whose parents are trying to enroll the child in first grade of a public school but who cannot produce acceptable proof that the child has completed a year of kindergarten would be REQUIRED to enroll the child in a kindergarten program, even if the child has mastered the kindergarten curriculum and is completely ready for first grade. It would not prohibit a private school from enrolling a child in first grade without completion of kindergarten and, to my reading, would not prohibit a child who had successfully completed first grade at a public or private school but who had not completed kindergarten from enrolling in second or higher grade. The bill does nothing to change the laws regarding kindergarten: it would cover the same curriculum, for the same length schoolday, as it presently does.
One obvious worry is whether the language of the bill grants to schools the right to judge the adequacy of the kindergarten program, but I think it does not. Buchanan's office was asked how this bill would affect children who had attended a private school kindergarten program or who were transferring in from other states and they replied that Section 48011 would continue to apply, which I interpret as follows.
The first sentence of Section 48011 says:
“A child who, consistent with Section 48000, has been admitted to the kindergarten maintained by a private or a public school in California or any other state, and who has completed one school year therein, shall be admitted to the first grade of an elementary school unless the parent or guardian of the child and the school district agree that the child may continue in kindergarten for not more than an additional school year.”
To me, this says that, if the child has completed a year of kindergarten in any public or (legal) private school in California or another state, the child must be admitted to first grade unless the parent and school agree that no more than one additional year of kindergarten would be beneficial. There are no words in that sentence implying that the school has any discretion to refuse entrance based on a personal judgment about the quality of the kindergarten program. So if the parent can show that the child did a year of kindergarten in any school, including a legal home-based private school, the child should be enrolled.
There is a question, though, about what happens to academically advanced children. Many very bright children are "asynchronous", meaning their cognitive development and their social and emotional development are not in sync (often with academic skills well beyond their age peers and emotional skills that are behind their age peers), and many such children are kept out of formal kindergarten, even though they are more than capable of the academic component, to allow their social and emotional skills to catch up.
So a curious situation arises. Section 48011, which is not being amended, currently allows a five year old child who is deemed ready by the school for first grade work to be admitted to first grade, without having attended a formal kindergarten program, with the parent's consent. The statute reads as follows:
“A child who has been lawfully admitted to a public school kindergarten or a private school kindergarten in California and who is judged by the administration of the school district, in accordance with rules and regulations adopted by the State Board of Education, to be ready for first-grade work may be admitted to the first grade at the discretion of the school administration of the district and with the consent of the child's parent or guardian if the child is at least five years of age. When a child has been legally enrolled in a public school of another district within or out of the state, he or she may be admitted to school and placed in the grade of enrollment in the district of former attendance, at the discretion of the school administration of the district entered.”
Again, this is at the discretion of the school; children who are academically advanced may skip kindergarten if everyone agrees. Buchanan's bill does not make attendance at school compulsory for five year olds, and by leaving 48011 intact, they appear to be conceding that in certain cases a child should not be required to attend kindergarten but rather go straight to first grade (although Section 48001 should be amended to make this explicit).
But nothing is said about the child seeking to enroll in school for the first time at first grade (with or without having attended a year of kindergarten) who, by age six, has mastered the kindergarten curriculum and perhaps even that of first grade. If the child had first enrolled in school at age five, the parent would have had a way to force the school to consider acceleration, but the amended law provides none for forcing the school to consider placing a child who did not attend kindergarten but who is clearly ready for first grade in the appropriate challenge level, or for forcing the school to consider acceleration for a child who had not attended either kindergarten or first grade but who is ready for second grade. As written, since there is no equivalent provision to Section 48011, it would be illegal for a school to allow this for a six year old child, the school would be required to insist upon a full year of kindergarten even if the child would be repeating things he had learned at age three. You can only imagine the deadening effect that would have on able students.
Arguments Against. Technically, AB 1772 would not prohibit families from continuing to educate their children legally at home, whether by forming their own private school or enrolling their children in the public or private school of their choice. If the bill was passed, families would be required either to begin homeschooling their child at age five or to have the child complete a year of kindergarten in a public or private school prior to trying to enroll the child in first grade, and home-based private schools would be an acceptable choice. But I think people who believe that parents should not be forced to consider any formal schooling for their young child have many potential arguments.
At the very least, this bill would need to be amended to allow parents the right to be able to demonstrate readiness for first grade without attendance at a formal kindergarten program (AB 1772).
I believe that there are statistics showing that over 90% of children already attend a kindergarten program. Of the remaining families, perhaps some are negligent parents who are not doing enough to help their children be ready to succeed in school, but we all certainly know of many caring and competent parents who have very good reasons, which should not be subject to second-guessing by the state, for choosing not to send their child to school at five.
The “findings” of the authors of these bills about the benefits of formal schooling are not universally accepted fact. There are many equally compelling studies that demonstrate the benefits of not sending children to formal programs away from home too soon. Diane Flynn Keith has posted on a number of lists outlining her concerns, and I will have to refer you to what she and others have written.
These laws would place a burden on families that are expecting to choose private education, whether for reasons of religion, quality or safety, forcing them to incur expenses a year early.
There is the obvious budgetary issue. Mandating compulsory kindergarten would be very expensive and California has no funds to spare. Surely targeted outreach programs to selected communities would be much cheaper and would leave existing school funds for the better use of educating the older students who are already required to attend.
I would not make this argument to a legislator, but there is another important reason to fight compulsory kindergarten. Just as many legislators honestly believe that every five year old should go out of the house to school, many also believe that toddlers should be required to attend preschool. But, under existing law, the legislature could not possibly pass a bill making attendance at preschool compulsory because attendance at kindergarten isn’t compulsory. If, however, kindergarten were legally required, the legislature would have no remaining barriers preventing them from trying to mandate attendance at preschool.
Under existing law, a person between the ages of 6 and 18 years who is not exempted is subject to compulsory education. Existing law excludes a child under 6 from compulsory education. This bill would extend compulsory education to children from 5 to 18 years old.
HSC Legislative Chair, Debbie Schwarzer, explains how AB2203 and AB1772 could potentially affect homeschoolers. Read Debbie's in-depth analysis.
Introduced by Assembly Member Pan, Coauthors: Senator Wolk, Assembly Member Fuentes
February 23, 2012
This bill impacts those who waive some or all required immunizations by signing a personal beliefs statement. Beginning on January 1 2014, the personal beliefs statement would need to be accompanied by a written statement signed by a health care practitioner stating that he/she has provided information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and of the communicable diseases. The parent would also be required to sign a written statement indicating that he/she received that information.
Full Text of Bill as Passed
SECTION 1. Section 120365 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:
120365. (a) Immunization of a person shall not be required for admission to a school or other institution listed in Section 120335 if the parent or guardian or adult who has assumed responsibility for his or her care and custody in the case of a minor, or the person seeking admission if an emancipated minor, files with the governing authority a letter or affidavit that documents which immunizations required by Section 120355 have been given, and which immunizations have not been given on the basis that they are contrary to his or her beliefs.
(b) On and after January 1, 2014, a form prescribed by the State Department of Public Health shall accompany the letter or affidavit filed pursuant to subdivision (a). The form shall include both of the following:
(1) A signed attestation from the health care practitioner that indicates that the health care practitioner provided the parent or guardian of the person who is subject to the immunization requirements of this chapter, the adult who has assumed responsibility for the care and custody of the person, or the person if an emancipated minor, with information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and the health risks of the communicable diseases listed in Section 120335 to the person and to the community. This attestation shall be signed not more than six months prior to the date when the person first becomes subject to the immunization requirement for which exemption is being sought.
(2) A written statement signed by the parent or guardian of the person who is subject to the immunization requirements of this chapter, the adult who has assumed responsibility for the care and custody of the person, or the person if an emancipated minor, that indicates that the signer has received the information provided by the health care practitioner pursuant to paragraph (1). This statement shall be signed not more than six months prior to the date when the person first becomes subject to the immunization requirements as a condition of admittance to a school or institution pursuant to Section 120335.
(c) The following shall be accepted in lieu of the original form:
(1) A photocopy of the signed form.
(2) A letter signed by a health care practitioner that includes all information and attestations included on the form.
(d) Issuance and revision of the form shall be exempt from the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code).
(e) When there is good cause to believe that the person has been exposed to one of the communicable diseases listed in subdivision (a) of Section 120325, that person may be temporarily excluded from the school or institution until the local health officer is satisfied that the person is no longer at risk of developing the disease.
(f) For purposes of this section, “health care practitioner” means any of the following:
(1) A physician and surgeon, licensed pursuant to Section 2050 of the Business and Professions Code.(2) A nurse practitioner who is authorized to furnish drugs pursuant to Section 2836.1 of the Business and Professions Code.(3) A physician assistant who is authorized to administer or provide medication pursuant to Section 3502.1 of the Business and Professions Code.(4) An osteopathic physician and surgeon, as defined in the Osteopathic Initiative Act.(5) A naturopathic doctor who is authorized to furnish or order drugs under a physician and surgeon’s supervision pursuant to Section 3640.5 of the Business and Professions Code.(6) A credentialed school nurse, as described in Section 49426 of the Education Code.
HSC and 2008 Court of Appeals Case Success
On August 8, 2008, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District ruled that homeschooling is indeed a legal option in California. This was a reversal of a ruling in February of that year that parents must hold a teaching credential to homeschool their children, and confirmed HSC’s long-held interpretation of private school laws.
Open thank you letter to attorney Mark Parnes and the law firm (Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) for successfully defending our right to homeschool.
The phrase “Independent Study Program” (ISP), when used by those in the private homeschool community, has applied to situations where one school files a single private school affidavit (PSA) for multiple homeschooling families whose children are enrolled in their school. Some programs characterized as ISPs are part of a private school campus-based school, some are operated as a business catering to homeschoolers, and others are composed entirely of homeschoolers. In almost all of these situations, the persons actually teaching the children enrolled in the school are the parents or guardians of the children, with varying degrees of assistance or supervision from the school.
The recent homeschooling case in Los Angeles has called into question the wisdom of using the ISP term. For reasons explained more fully below, the Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA), California Home School Network (CHN), HomeSchool Association of California (HSC), Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and Private and Home Educators of California (part of FPM) are jointly making the following recommendations regarding the termination of the use of the term “independent study programs” in the future.
1. We are recommending that the private homeschool community at large, and the leaders of “private independent study programs” in particular, make a change from using the descriptive phrase “private school independent study program” (and its variants – e.g. “ISP”, “Private ISP”, etc.), and instead use the phrase “Private School Satellite Program” (PSP, with the second “S” purposely eliminated for simplicity). This will make it clear that these private homeschool programs, in which the students’ education is provided by or under the direction of their parents, are different from public school ISPs, in which there is an assigned credentialed teacher who directs the students’ education while the parents are teachers' aides.
If a school has the words “independent study program” as part of its name, we would recommend that the name be changed to eliminate that reference. We are not saying that schools offering this type of program need to incorporate the words “satellite program” as part of their official name, and we leave the selection of the new name to the schools. We do think, though, that it would be prudent to discontinue the use of the “ISP” term. We understand that this creates some hardship and inconvenience for some schools, and assure you that we are not making this recommendation lightly.
2. We also recommend that the administrator of each Private School Satellite Program (formerly ISP) include in their count of teachers on their annual private school affidavit at least one parent or guardian from each family in their Satellite Program (PSP), so that the number of reported teachers more correctly reflects the actual student-teacher ratio.
In concert with our recommendation #2 above, we want to remind every Private School Satellite Program administrator to continue to require “a record of educational qualification of each [teacher]” to be maintained at the address specified by the private school on the PSA (see Ed Code 33190(f)(3). The PSA does not ask for the names of teachers, and we do not recommend that any teacher names be given voluntarily.
This change in terminology DOES NOT affect parents who file an affidavit (PSA) for their own private school where they teach their own children, but will affect the remainder of homeschoolers in private school programs to varying degrees. Families who are enrolled in programs that we would now call PSPs do not need to do anything other than confirm with their schools that they are aware of these recommendations. If any school is not aware of them, please feel free to give them a copy of this message and ask them to contact one of the organizations listed above for further information if it is needed.
We are recommending this change because of certain developments in the homeschooling case pending before the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. You may wonder why we feel action is needed even though a new, final decision has not yet been issued. In its brief prepared for the June rehearing, the California Department of Education (CDE) expressed their official position on homeschooling, which calls into question the wisdom of continuing to use the term “ISP” to describe multi-family homeschool programs. It’s the CDE’s position that the only valid “independent study” programs are those public school home study programs that comply with very specific statutory requirements as outlined in the Education Code. We believe they were confused by the ISP name; in order to eliminate that confusion, we’re making these recommendations. We would like to note, however, that they did concede that one family can legally operate a private school in their home.
We believe that the term “Private School Satellite Program” accurately describes the operation of a private school that files an affidavit and serves multiple families, whether it be a private campus-based school with a home study option, a school operated as a business exclusively serving homeschoolers, or a private school composed entirely of homeschool families. In each case, the enrolled family’s home is a satellite location of the private school with the parents or guardians operating as the teachers of the children in their homes. We evaluated many different possible terms, researched whether those terms are used in California state laws or the education laws of other states, and determined after lengthy debate that “Private School Satellite Program” both did a good job of describing the situation and avoided any confusion with terms already used in state statutes or regulations.
We know that you may have questions and you should feel free to contact us for further clarification.
One of the most effective ways to participate in making sure that homeschooling remains a legal option in Caifornia is for homeschoolers to visit their own legislators. We are told by people who have worked on legislative matters for a long time that legislators really like to have a face to associate with a cause. Giving your legislators a family to think of when they think about homeschooling will help when the time for a vote on homeschooling comes up.