36 Campbell L. Rev. 253 (2014)
INTRODUCTION. Parents across the nation are increasingly dissatisfied with public education. In growing numbers, they are turning to homeschooling as an alternative. From 1999 to 2012, the number of homeschooled children in the United States increased by seventy-five percent. Today, nearly 1.6 million children attend homeschools in the United States. In North Carolina alone, an estimated 83,609 children attended homeschools in the 2012–2013 school year. While the total number of homeschooled children nationwide is currently only four percent of all K–12 students, “the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K–12 every year.” The number of homeschooled students in the United States is expected to continue to steadily increase in the near future. Researchers “expect to observe a notable surge in the number of children being homeschooled in the next 5 to 10 years[,]” both in terms of raw numbers of children in homeschools and in terms of the overall percentage of homeschoolers in the total elementary and secondary student population. This increase is expected because “(1) a large number of those individuals who were being home educated in the 1990s may begin to homeschool their own school-age children and (2) the continued successes of home-educated students” inspires newcomers to join this educational movement.
The North Carolina State Constitution requires that the General Assembly ensure all students, including the growing number of homeschooled students, receive an opportunity to a sound basic education—as defined by the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Leandro v. State—to enable them to be productive members in society. The General Assembly has opted to authorize homeschools and even funds particular homeschools with scholarship grants. But, the General Assembly does little to ensure that the children in those homeschools receive the opportunity to a sound basic education. This Article will address the conflict between a student’s state constitutional right to be educated and a parent’s constitutional right to “direct the upbringing and education” of her child, while recognizing that the State has a duty to “guard and maintain” the child’s right to an education under Article I, Section 15 of the North Carolina State Constitution. Ultimately, this Article will suggest that North Carolina’s homeschooling laws are not sufficient to ensure each homeschooled child’s constitutional right to the opportunity to receive a sound basic education, and thus, the State is failing in its duty. Part I of this Article will identify states’ interests, parents’ interests, and children’s rights in ensuring access to the opportunity to a sound basic education. After laying this foundation, Part II will demonstrate that parents’ “Pierceright” is not absolute when the State’s interests and a child’s rights are also at play. It will then establish the balancing of interests that must take place to determine the constitutional rights of homeschooled students versus their parents. In Part III, this Article will explore North Carolina’s existing laws on homeschooling and the potential burden these laws place on students’ constitutional rights. Finally, in Part IV, this Article will propose revisions to North Carolina’s homeschooling statutes that would ensure that all children in North Carolina, regardless of whether they are taught in a traditional school or at home, are afforded the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.