Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Too Much Time on My Hands

Capitol Fax political pundit Rich Miller suggests home schoolers have time on their hands, which is why we can show up in Springfield today.

Seriously, Rich?

What Mr. Miller characterized as a simple registration requirement is not.  Even Senator Maloney is running from his own bill now, though sadly not from the registration concept.  What Senator Maloney attempted in SB 136 would give the State Board of Education broad, indeed unlimited power to craft registration requirements.  Curriculum approval by the state?  Certification required?  Why not?  Maloney noted to Cisco Cotto (890 AM), with some wistfulness, that others states have floated or implemented similar actions.  One HSLDA attorney joked that we do have a term for those government officials who think it a problem when the government doesn't know or control something:  megalomaniac.

Illinois Review rightly ridiculed Miller for his assessment of home educators.  I will leave you to guess who the anonymously quoted homeschool mom is.  :)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

SB 136 in the TribLocal section of the Chicago Tribune

I just posted a piece on the TribLocal portion of the Chicago Tribune.  The TribLocal site bills itself as the "citizen reporter" arm of the Chicago Tribune.  Sounds so much better than "glorified blogger," yes?

You can read it here.


Friday, February 11, 2011

They are Hearing, but are They Listening?

As it currently stands, it looks like the IL General Assembly Education Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, 2/15 to discuss registration of home school students, but without SB 136 listed as legislation for that meeting.

Perhaps they've figured out that there is a vociferous, voting and wait-for-it...informed citizenry in IL who finds this bill repugnant.  Maybe they're out to find a more palatable way to force home schoolers to submit to state intrusion.  Could they believe that if they just find the right way to phrase it, surely we will agree to their enlightened, assuredly benign reach into our homes?  Doubtful.

In a way, you almost have to feel sorry for Senator Maloney.  He appears to have stepped squarely in a big pile of dog doo here.  It would be like someone suggesting basic literacy--say, reading on a second grade level-- as a precondition to voting rights.  On the surface, that's not a bad idea.  However, only someone without any clue to our nation's history and the painful, discriminatory past of poll tax, literacy tests and the like used as unfair and blatant attempts to disenfranchise blacks would ever insensitively suggest it.

So it is with Senator Maloney and SB 136, I think.  Or at least, in my more charitable moments, I hope it is merely ignorance of the decades long struggle to legally affirm home school rights and freedoms that leads him to such an ill-conceived bill.  In my more realistic moments, I note that the IL Education Association was his largest campaign contributor in 2008, followed by money from both the IFT and the Chicago Teachers Union.  View his campaign contributors here.

Home educators are right to distrust any bill that rests power in the State Board of Education to prescribe any requirements, even registration ones, on home schools.

Any home educator worth their salt knows of the NEA's resolution of 2007-8 (B-75) which asserts their belief that "home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience."  State BOEs are filled with former institutional setting teachers and superintendents (7 of the 9 here in IL).  We know that the stated position of the NEA is that "When homeschooling occurs...instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state Dept. of Ed should be used."

Can Senator Maloney really wonder why home educators view skeptically any power given to the State BOE to establish registration requirements?  Registration requirements are the gateway drug to curriculum requirements and licensure requirements.

Maloney's Democratic counterparts on the Education Committee have been, for the most part, silent about his bill.  Maybe they should contemplate that the IL Federation of Teachers 2003 Resolution #4 states that "IFT supports MANDATORY {emphasis mine} state and/or federal funded preschool education for ALL three and four year old children in the state of IL."  With at least one State BOE member proudly listing her affiliation with the IFT on her official biography page, home educators might rightly question what the State BOE position on say, a 12 year old who learns at home might be?

The IFT lists as key issues it continues to oppose as "attempts to weaken/reduce present student attendance requirements for the purpose of computing state aid" as well as "any effort to weaken the separation of church and state."  Now, these may be worthy goals for public education, but wouldn't these goals each potentially be undermined by the very presence of home schools?  Is it really a stretch to think that the State BOE, when dreaming up registration requirements under the broad umbrella of power SB 136 gives them, might have deeply ingrained in them a sympathy for Article 2 of the IFT Constitution?  Article 2, Sec 1 lists their purpose as giving "mutual aid and support to IL teachers."  Section 2 lists their purpose as promoting "the organization of teachers" and section 9 dedicates their purpose to "preserve and promote the welfare of the public school system."

By our very existence, home educators are a threat to the entrenched powers of institutional schooling.  The trend in our country is toward professionalism of the teacher and toward national standards.  Again, maybe not bad ideas for those within that system, but  the fact that any reasonable parent with a library card can successfully educate their kid is a scary idea to the institutions.  Scores of studies seem to indicate their fears are well-founded.  Homeschooled kids have higher achievement as measured by ACT scores and higher freshman college GPAs than their traditionally schooled counterparts.

What if this legislation evolves into home educators merely needing to give their names, address and kids' names?  Surely no reasonable person could disagree with that, right?  Let me leave you with the words from the IFT website section entitled "Rome wasn't built in a day":

Aim for consensus rather than "victory."  Be willing to settle for making progress toward your goal, getting the bill passed, and fine-tuning it in future sessions.

If Senator Maloney wants to introduce a bill asking the State BOE to emulate home educators' success in raising above average academic kids, ones who are less likely to be on welfare and more likely to be entrepreneurs than their public school counterparts, all at a fraction of the $11,000 IL spends per child on "free" public education, then we have much to dialogue about.

Otherwise?  The State has no business extending any control over a successful education venture to bring it to the level of mediocrity shown by the public system.

Contact info for the IL Education Committee members is in the next blog post below.  Please take a moment to thank Sen. Schmidt and Sen. McCarter for their opposition to SB 136 and to let the other Senators know you disapprove of this needless intrusion by the state on parental rights.

Links to the campaign contributors of the other Education Committee members listed below.











Thursday, February 10, 2011

SB 136

SB 136 has been referred to the Education Committee meeting on 2/15.  Please contact the following committee members and register your strong opposition by both phone and email.

Committee Chairman, Sen. James T. Meeks (D-Chicago)
Springfield: 217-782-8066
District: 708-862-1515


Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Westchester) 
Springfield: 217-782-8505
District: 708-343-7444 


Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton)
Springfield: 217-782-5509
District: 618-439-2504 


Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood)
Springfield: 217-782-3650
District: 847-433-2002


Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago)
Springfield: 217-782-8191
District: 773-463-0720

Sen. John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago)
Springfield: 217-782-1035
District: 773-763-3810

Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville)
Springfield: 217-782-8137
District: 618-243-9014

Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Decatur)
Springfield: 217-782-5755
District: 217-428-4068

Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa)
Springfield: 217-782-7353
District: 847-752-7004

Sen. Christine Johnson (R- Sycamore) *Will be sworn in on Feb. 14th
Springfield: 217-782-1977
District: 815-895-6318
could not find contact info for Sen. Johnson

Copy of the letter I sent to each committe member (with shameless academic bragging redacted for public consumption):

Dear Senator McCarter: 
SB 136 requiring home schoolers to register with the State Board of Education according to whatever requirements the SBOE establishes will be heard by the Education Committee on 2/15. This vague bill undermines parental rights and sets home educators on a slippery slope toward unnecessary government intrusion into their lives.  
I am an active voter and an IL home educating mother of 5. All my kids who are of school age perform well above grade level. My oldest, though only a 9th grader, currently has a XX% average at North Central College in Math 152 (Calc 2) and scored a XX on the ACT at age 13; my middle two sons routinely score at the XXth percentile or above on nationally normed standardized tests and my pre-K girl can read at the XX grade level. Somehow, I manage to educate them appropriately without any state intrusion or help and cannot imagine that anything the SBOE could dream up would do anything but hinder me in this endeavor.  
I am asking you to call on Senator Maloney to withdraw this bill and to publicly note your opposition to it. I do not think I can voice my opposition in any clearer terms than your colleague State Senator Suzi Schmidt already has: 
In its current form the bill would mandate all non-public school students (including home-schooled students) to register with the State Board of Education each year, which appears unnecessary, excessive, and provides no solution to a given problem in the public or private education systems. Additionally there is no available information regarding how this mandate might improve education for students, the number of families it will affect, or the anticipated additional cost to taxpayers it will create. Because the proposed legislation seemingly provides no added value to education and is unnecessary to student achievement, I do not support this bill. 
Thank you. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bad Bill

I've heard that members at large of the IL Senate may not yet know about this bill as it is one of about a hundred introduced last Thursday.  Every home educator should contact the five committee members assigned to SB0136.  All of their offices are closed right now.  So, if you're kindof a chicken like me, you can just call and leave messages tonight registering your disapproval.  I called all five and it took me less than 10 minutes total.  I used a short script--basically just what the next paragraph says.  And I let them know that I had let about 500 homeschoolers know of this bill and had encouraged each and every one of them to register their disapproval as well.  

Contact the following five IL Senate committee members and let them know you do not approve of homeschoolers and private schools having to register in "conformance" and "accordance" with procedures (that could mean ANYTHING) prescribed by the State Board of Ed.  This could open a Pandora's box of regulation and intrusion by the state on the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit.  

Edward Maloney 773.881.4180 emaloney@senatedem.ilga.gov

James Clayborne Jr 618.875.1212 http://jamesclayborne.com/contact-us/contact-senator-clayborne.html  (submit a message to him at this site)

Don Harmon 708.848.2002. info@donharmon.org

Kimberly Lightford 708.343.7444. http://www.senatedem.ilga.gov/index.php/contact-me-lightford (submit a message to her at this site)

Kirk W Dillard 630.969.0990. senator@kdillard.com

Dale Righter 630.235.6033. http://dalerighter.com/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=1&Itemid=3  (submit a message to him at this site)

You can get to the bill via this news alert.

Please forward this to any/all homeschool lists and home educators you know in the state of IL and let's get a huge grassroots response going!  Please include all your friends in the private schools as well--I am sure they don't want the State Board of Education having a foothold to require "conformance" with whatever "procedures" the SBOE dreams up.



Two rounds of shoveling today prompted me to compose a new but already trite simile:  "as futile as shoveling in a blizzard."

Technically, I don't think we're quite at blizzard force winds yet.  The weather folks promise that by around 11pm.  It sure was whippin' when my son and I went out to shovel around dinner time.  If that wasn't blizzard winds, I don't want to see what blizzard winds are.

Early in the day, I sent all the boys out with the admonition to shovel our own drive and the sidewalks all the way to the neighbors' driveways.  I prattled on about being a good neighbor, serving others, small favors, delivering more than you promise and the like.  They more or less cheerfully complied, though their task was made a bit easier by the fact that one neighbor beat them to the good deed.

About 40 minutes into our pointless venture this evening, moving 6 inches or so of heavy snow only to have half of it blow back in our faces, I yelled across the driveway to my son, "Just do our part of the sidewalks.  This is too tough.  The neighbors will have to do their own."

He hesitated for just a moment and looked at me.

"Crap, " I thought.

Now, I'm not proud I thought this.  Mostly because my two oldest kids read my blog and they are always scandalized to learn that their mother thinks words like "crap."  They tend to chide me for this and my other indiscretions.  You should have heard the uproar when I said "butt cheeks" earlier in the day.  In our home, the preferred term is bunky.  Yes, really.  It's an oddity from my husband's family of origin that we've adopted.  The kids told me in all seriousness a few weeks back that they thought "sexy" was a swear word.

My son didn't say anything, but I knew he was thinking about what I had said earlier in the day.  He kept quiet, having learned that mama can get pretty cross when her little hypocrisies are pointed out.  Or maybe he was weighing honor and integrity against the fact that his hands were numb and we were snow frosted.

I almost had to laugh, thinking how my most recent blog post included a quote about it being easier to live by one's principles 100% of the time rather than 98% of the time.  We shoveled the neighbors' walks.

Our small favor is buried under several fresh inches already, but I hope it won't be so easily erased in my son's mind.  Character is comprised of a thousand small moments like these.