Parental Choice and Freedoms Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Chicago Senator Maloney introduced a bill two years ago that would require homeschool registration with the Illinois State Board of Education.  Even after an estimated 4,000 homeschoolers showed up at the Capitol to hear an informational only hearing on this bill, Senator Maloney had a hard time letting the bill finally go.  After hearing Senate Education Vice-Chair Senator Lightford's interview responses related to her bill lowering the compulsory attendance age, I don't think the super-majority party is done with homeschoolers yet.

The Illinois homeschooling community thought we sent a clear and fair message we did not want our freedoms tampered with, we were obviously doing just fine in educating our children. The public school system should correct their gulf of educational failure, rather than worrying about any perceived cracks in parent-directed educations.  

Below is what Senator Lightford said in the WTTW interview in the last minute.  They were talking about the fiscal report for her bill and the interview somehow drifted to Colorado and homeschooling:

Senator Lightford – we can’t assume all children are going to attend a public school, some may go to private school, some may stay home as homeschoolers. So that the range is so huge there, I have no way of giving you an exact number, but the state board is working on the [fiscal] impact.

Lipkin – In Colorado when they tried to lower the age to 5, they had a compromise at age 6  because there were objections from some parents who homeschool their children. Is there a potential impact of this legislation on people who choose to homeschool their children?

Senator Lightford – No, not at all. In fact homeschoolers aren’t even required to register their kids today so I can’t see what their argument would be in having to register their children at 5 when they don’t have to register their kids anyway. So I’m trying to understand  the opposition.…maybe Colorado  had on their books that the kids had to be registered. In the state our kids are not, which is another area I think deserves some tweaking.

Illinois homeschoolers can provide all the finishing touches to their children's education without legislative tweaking. We know our rights and responsibilities, as laid out in the compulsory attendance exemption for private schools.  Senator Lightford was interviewed by an Oak Park media source six years ago. She was the Senate Education Chair at the time. Below are her concerns about homeschoolers not answering to the state.  Remember Senator Lightford seems to be somewhat oblivious to education issues, such as the compulsory attendance age in Illinois:

"I would have assumed to some degree that we had accountability over how many home schoolers there were, where they were located, and that they would be tested," Lightford said.

She was so surprised that she said she is planning to delve deeper into the issue.

"I'm glad you sparked this," Lightford said. "You just really put me into a situation where I'd be interested in looking at legislation.

"So you don't even know your child's aptitude or ability or where they are? At what level?" she asked, still sounding astonished. "That's scary."

We're not scary. Chicago's high school dropout rate is scary.  Let's focus. Makes sense that our legislators' focus should not be on homeschoolers.

Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Chair and Representative Chapa-LaVia was quoted mentioning homeschoolers in this Chicago Tribune article:

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, who is forming a top-level task force to address Chicago's K-8 truancy and absenteeism, told the Tribune that she strongly supports lowering Illinois' compulsory attendance age, although she could consider carving out an exemption for families who are home-schooling.

Homeschoolers don't need an exemption carved out any more than any other private school.  We're exempt from the compulsory attendance statute Senator Lightford found surprising.  If they're trying to appease us, it's not working with these little tweaks from our lawmakers.

Two years ago, Dana Loesch interviewed (now retired) Senator Maloney and this response was also in the last minutes.   

Dana Loesch – Will this legislation go away?

Senator Maloney – SB 136 has gone away. We will have a discussion relative to, primarily the truancy issue and how we can identify that and with all parties involved and hopefully we can come up some way, some, fashioning some sort of legislation that will be able to identify those students without invading anybody's privacy.

Fashioning legislation for a problem that doesn't exist would be unfortunate. 

February 15, 2011 Senate Education Hearing led by Vice-Chair Senator Kimberly Lightford. Senator Luechtefeld was questioning Wm. Reynolds, truant officer,  about the prospects of Illinois homeschool registration and a truant officer's role in this registration process.

Senator Luechtefeld [Senate Education Committee Minority Spokesman] - We will, presently, go out and with these kids you maybe know are not being schooled, and I’m sure that happens, you say you can’t do anything as soon as they say they’re homeschooling. Now with, now explain to me how it would change if they were just registered. You still wouldn’t be able to do anything. Am I right about that? Would things change?

Truant Officer – Well, I’m not sure. Mr. Woodruff (HSLDA attorney) has given me enough case law that indicates that in Illinois, I can in some cases.

Senator Luechtefeld -  But you could even now, am I right?

Truant Officer –  And I believe that’s true, Senator. I believe that’s true.

Senator Luechtefeld - Yeah, my question is, “How does registering change that?” I agree there are some abuses but I’m concerned about how things would be different for you because if you see these kids on the street day after day after day, you probably can do something even if they say they’re home schoolers. How would it change if they’re registered?

Truant Officer –  It would give me access to the ones that I don’t see on the street that I don’t get a police report on, that I don’t get a phone call from their neighbor indicating that they’re not going to school. At least I’ll have a wider range of…

Senator Luechtefeld - And then you would go to their home and check on them?

Truant Officer - I would go to the home and offer my help.

Senator Luechtefeld - But you don’t know they need help because you said you’ve not seen them. No one’s reported them.

Truant Officer - Well if they register then I think I have the obligation to see if I can help them.

Senator Luechtefeld - So are you going to go into any…any person who registers, will you be going then into the home? To go by and say, “Can I help?”

Truant Officer - Yes, sir.

Senator Luechtefeld - Even the people who are doing the really good job? Because you don’t know ahead of time which one…

Truant Officer - That’s exactly right. And I’ll know very quickly as I knock on the door…the ones who are doing a great job won’t let me go. They want me to come in. The ones that say, “We don’t want you around…” well, we might need to take some other action.

Senator Luechtefeld - I guess I don’t see…maybe someone else here could say to me how this changes things. Other than the fact that they’re registered.

Truant Officer – It would give me the names and the opportunity.

Senator Luechtefeld – I see.

Truancy concerns, adding two more years to the (failing) school system and then, homeschooling pops into the picture again.  Homeschoolers have long memories, will do what is necessary to protect their family freedoms and lifestyle, certainly considering a trip to the state Capitol an ideal civics lesson.  We'd rather not do this because our legislators are giving us problems, but I bet we could top 4,000.  Next time, we need a much larger room in our Capitol building.  They surely would want this lesson in view for our homeschooled children, their future constituents.  Let's hope there isn't a next time.

 We were hoping that 2 years ago.


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