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.



  1. I don't see any tin foil hats here! Great post!

  2. Ah Holly, As typical you stated very eloquently what many of us feel and would want to say. My favorite line "stepped in dog doo"! Thank you for sharing and always working so hard to keep us home school parents not only informed but involved.