Public Virtual School Act Bill Includes “Home school” Language

There is a new Virtual School Act bill heading to the House Elementary and Secondary Education CommitteeI suspect it won't pass out of Committee because of the teacher unions.  But who knows in the sillyland of Illinois politics.  

It's an attractive idea to have the kids study from the comforts of home, rather than dealing with the grueling schedule getting to and from the school building. You generally don't have to worry about bullies, bad lunches and you can go to the bathroom, as needed. You do not have to walk in a straight line. Homeschoolers love that freedom and it appears there are many families participating in the Chicago Virtual Charter School who prefer that program.

But it's always more complicated than that. I hope I can lay out the beef homeschoolers would have with a Virtual School Act. There are a couple of issues.

"Home schooled" language is specified in this bill again and again. Why not just put "private schools" or "non-public school"?  Illlinois homeschoolers are private schools.

Part of our current protection, laid out in a 1950 Illinois Supreme Court ruling, is under the entire private school lobby umbrella, rather than our much smaller, but mighty community.  I would imagine  Rep. Joe Sosnowski had good intentions with his HB 3307 bill.  But just as Representative Eddy removed "home school" language from one of his bills a few years ago, we should respectfully ask Representative Sosnowski to do the same.

Here's the synopsis of his bill:  

Creates the Illinois Virtual School Act. Establishes the Illinois Virtual School as a statewide virtual school to serve Illinois students in kindergarten through grade 12 and Illinois teachers and other educators, to be funded through an annual State appropriation to meet the operation and capital needs of the Illinois Virtual School. Sets forth provisions concerning fees, accountability, online courses, access and equity, a Board of Trustees, the powers of the Board, and the transition from the existing State Board of Education program. Effective immediately.

Seems harmless and goodness knows, the current school system isn't working out so well.  Emphasis is mine below.  Here's the problem language

"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 here:

(5) To provide payment to the Illinois Virtual School for applicable enrollment fees.

(d) If a student is home schooled, the student's parent or legal guardian has the responsibility to do the following:

(1) Make the determination if the student is approved to enroll in an Illinois Virtual School course.
(2) Make sure the student's Illinois Virtual School course is supervised by a responsible adult.
(3) When requested by the Illinois Virtual School instructor, proctor the student's participation in Illinois Virtual School activities or assessments.

There's another issue we should watch with caution regarding Virtual Public Schools.  I'll lay that out in the next post.  But this language in HB 3307 should be revised to include "private schools", rather than specifying homeschoolers.  

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