Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Caveat Emptor

Sigh.

There’s a little too much hysteria floating around these days about the In re Rachel L. opinion that a California appellate court released on February 28. (For a summary of what it’s all about and what’s being done about it, visit the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) website, which has frequent news updates linked from their front page.)

There’s some discussion about what the decision actually means for California homeschoolers, but the consensus view seems to be that if the opinion stands as is, all those families who were a bit too nervous to form their own private school and file the private school affidavit independently and instead enrolled in some sort of private school independent study program could eventually be affected by this ruling. Those families whose chose to go the completely independent route will probably be just fine.

The opinion, though, will not be final until March 28 (and the court could conceivably modify its opinion before then). Once it is final, the attorneys working for HSC, the California Homeschool Network (CHN), and probably the Christian Home Educators Association of California/Family Protection Ministries in affiliation with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), will file a petition with the California Supreme Court to have the opinion depublished, so that it will not be a precedent for any other cases.

As always, HSLDA has jumped into the situation energetically, using the California situation to promote their irrelevant Parental Rights Amendment, which in addition to being a stupid idea, has zero chance of becoming a part of the United States Constitution. But it’s given them a means to collect the signatures and contact information of over a quarter million people they can now solicit for membership and support for their usual right-wing religious agenda. Far too many people, thinking they're just buying legal insurance, sign up with HSLDA without looking into what it spends their money for, and many would be appalled to find out what their dues support.

But then, some of those nervous families would do well to investigate the private schools they enroll their kids with, too, before they start writing checks. Just as an example, consider the school the family in this court case enrolled their kids in: Sunland Christian School. Sunland is operated by a guy named Terry Neven. It advertises on its website that it’s an accredited school, accredited by the National Independent Study Accreditation Council (NISAC). But if you look into NISAC, you’ll discover that it’s run by this same Terry Neven from the same address as Sunland Christian School. Further, Mr. Neven offers his enrolled families legal support (why would a legitimate private school feel the need to offer legal support to its enrolled families?) from California Home Education Legal Defense (CHELD), which—what a surprise!—operates from the same address as Sunland Christian School and NISAC. (Mr. Neven is not a lawyer, by the way.)

[No links here intentionally. Anybody who really wants to find Mr. Neven’s fishy little family of companies can do so, but I don’t have to make it easier for them.]

That’s one of the advantages of forming your own private school and filing your own affidavit—you’re taking no risks of unpleasant surprises from the people you’re putting in charge of your kids’ education. After all, you’ve known them well since before you even had kids.

5 comments:

Terry Neven said...

Hi Mary,

Terry Neven here. Just to clear a few things (I don't know if you will post this). NISAC was started by 3 homeschool adminstrators with the help from some public shcool officials to develop an accreditation process for homeschool programs. WASC will not provide accrediation to homeschool programs, so an alternative was developed. It is available to any homeschool programthroughout the United States.
CHELD is developed to assist administrators of homeschool programs to counsel them when dealing with administrative issues related to public schools, Dept of Childen Services or other related concerns to homeschoolers. While I am not a lawyer (nor have I even stated so), we utilize lawyers when needed to provide the necessary legal counsel. These ministries all work out of the same office. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at SCSandCHE@aol.com

Mary Griffith said...

So how many homeschools are actually accredited by NISAC? And how many families enrolled with CHELD? And of those, what percentage are NOT enrolled with any of the other "ministries [that] all work out of the same office"?

Until any of them can claim broad appeal beyond the Sunland/NISAC/CHELD home address, they still look pretty self-serving to me.

Terry Neven said...

They may look self-serving because they are three different services geared to homeschooling and operate out of the same office. However, they make-up 2 different coporations with different boards. Just as the bookstore "Borders" sells books, magazines and CDs from the same address, we provide three different "products" out of the same office. It is actually a very reasonable thing. While all three services may not have broad appeal at this point, They do serve different clients. The families in Sunland are different from the families in CHELD, and NISAC serves schools, not individuals. I hope this information helps provide you with a more accurate picture than someone might have judgingly told you. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me directly at SCSandCHE@aol.com. It seems unfortunate to publicly criticize organizations which are doing good for the homeschool movement, without personal and accurate information.

Mary Griffith said...

As I asked in my earlier comment, how many schools are accredited by NISAC? How many families are enrolled in CHELD? And how many students does Sunland have? You've not answered those questions with any factual data, but only made general assertions of good intentions.

Reputable accreditation agencies are entirely separate from the schools they evaluate—that's how they build their reputation. They provide an independent evaluation of the services offered by the school. An accreditation agency which operates out of the offices of one of the schools it accredits hardly promotes confidence in its ability to provide independent oversight.

Reputable accreditation agencies also provide directories of the schools they accredit. Take a look at the WASC site, for instance--at http://www.wascweb.org --and you'll see their directories of schools and colleges, with contact information and accreditation status for each. You'll also see information about their methods and standards for accreditation. That's an accreditation agency to take seriously.

I don't expect a small entity like NISAC to have as fancy a website as WASC, but I do expect a credible accreditation body to at least attempt an appearance of independence, to explain its standards and procedures, and to provide contact information for the schools it has accredited.

If NISAC chooses one day to be more transparent about its standards and services, I may change my opinion, but until then, I shall continue to believe that an NISAC accreditation isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Terry said...

Mary,

NISAC's standards can be found on its web site. homeschoolaccreditation.com