SOURCE: LifeWay Research

August 11, 2008 11:27 ET

Homeschooling a Constitutional Right, Americans Tell LifeWay Research

NASHVILLE, TN--(Marketwire - August 11, 2008) - Until last Friday, more than 8 in 10 Americans were at odds with a California appeals court that ruled in February that "parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," according to just-released data from LifeWay Research.

In fact, 86 percent of those polled by LifeWay Research in an April telephone survey agreed with the statement: "Parents have a constitutional right to homeschool their children."

It seems the California appeals court now agrees. In a stunning move Aug. 8, the three-judge panel reversed itself, saying the state legislature has implicitly accepted homeschooling as legal. "We ... conclude that California statutes permit homeschooling as a species of private school education," the justices wrote in their unanimous decision released on Friday.

"The California appeals court shocked the nation with its ruling in February," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "We decided, as part of a broad survey of more than 1,200 adult Americans, to get their reaction and found that 61 percent strongly agreed that the Constitution guarantees the right of parents to homeschool, and another 25 percent agreed somewhat." Eight percent somewhat disagreed, five percent disagreed strongly, and two percent did not know, according to Stetzer. "Americans appear to believe that parents, not the government, should decide whether or not they should homeschool."

At the same time, LifeWay Research found some possible agreement with the widely quoted rationale behind the court's original ruling. The appeals court cited socialization concerns in February, ruling, "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare." That was a main reason the court prohibited homeschooling unless the parent had a "valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught."

Many have expressed concern that homeschooling fails to provide adequate socialization and connection to broader society, often leading to weaker social interaction and skills. In the LifeWay Research survey, 54 percent of respondents agreed, somewhat or strongly, that "children who are homeschooled often lack social skills."

"As is the case with polling research, we are not asking if something is true but rather what people believe," said Stetzer. "And, it is important to note that Americans do believe that schooling at home leads to issues with social skills -- and this is a perception that homeschooling families need to overcome."

LifeWay Research conducted the telephone survey April 10-12, 2008, among a representative sample of American adults. The sample size of 1,201 provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.9 percent.

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