A similar bill (HB 3743) came up just about a year ago, and it was a bit shocking to see homeschoolers referenced in that public virtual school bill.
When I called Representative Chapa-LaVia's office last year, I was told by an aide that she hadn't discussed this bill with any homeschoolers- before inserting mention of us. I assumed good intentions without her understanding what most homeschoolers want via protections in Illinois. But here it is again, and here is the "home-school" reference again.
Most Illinois homeschoolers are the rare breed of people who feel a duty to lobby for nothing more than to be left alone. Leave us alone, folks. The K12 company has been lobbying hard in IL ($$) to create a state-wide virtual school. Those details will be in the next post.
One major obvious concern to me is any "home-school" reference in Illinois statutes. We have private school status via a 1950 IL Supreme Court ruling. Private schools in the non-home based building form help protect our tinier minority of homeschoolers via coalitions and such. We could lose that umbrella protection with "home-school" separation from other private schools by precedent setting statutes like this one. I know that was explained to Representative Chapa-LaVia's office. Here are the specific references in this current HB 5168.
The Virtual School Act– sitting in the Rules Committee; introduced 1/29/2010
Section 10. Creation and funding. There is hereby created the Illinois Virtual School, a statewide virtual school to serve Illinois students in kindergarten through grade 12 and Illinois teachers and other educators, funded through an annual State appropriation to meet the operation and capital needs of the Illinois Virtual School. Fees may be charged to schools and home-schooled families on a per enrollment basis to cover costs directly associated with the offering of online courses and the providing of online curriculum to Illinois schools. The Illinois Virtual School may also charge fees for services provided to students and schools outside of this State in order to further support the services provided to Illinois students and educators. and again here: (e) The Illinois Virtual School may not issue credit or diplomas except in the following situations: (1) The student is home schooled. (2) The student left school without earning a diploma and his or her class had graduated. (3) Upon the request of the school district in which the student resides.
Representative Chapa-LaVia is the chair of the Appropriations-Elementary & Secondary Education Committee. Handling the IL school funding and appropriations is a powerful job, even if IL isn't known for a balanced budget or paying bills on time. Words via legal documentation do count. Whether there is funding or not.
The Northwest Herald posted a guest column last week –Trends point to bright future ahead – written by the Asst.. Regional Supt of Education for McHenry County:
Perhaps most interesting is the increased interest in virtual education. Currently Illinois has a virtual high school, and Chicago has a virtual charter school. While the Illinois General Assembly has entertained a statewide program of virtual instruction, the states of Kansas and Florida already have them. The flexibility of virtual public school is interesting a surprising number of parents. Parents become the primary facilitators for their child's instruction as they work through lessons delivered online. The state would be funding a system that would facilitate the education of a child but be delivered by the parent with instructional software."
The combination of a powerful legislator and a ROE official pushing virtual education with a "home-school" legislative twist can give a homeschool advocate an unsettling feeling.
There are interesting facts in the archives about the "home-school" link by media and other interested parties (teachers union, etc) to the IL public virtual charter school.