Our legislators make laws. I did learn that in my public school civics class. But it is astonishing to me how lay people, such as enlightened homeschoolers, know many laws and regulations better than our lawmakers and lawyers and let’s not forget judges. Which takes us round and round with our lawmakers and other public servants concerning laws affecting homeschoolers.
I listened to the audio of the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Hearing that included Representative Sue Scherer’s HB 2762, a bill lowering compulsory attendance age to 6. There are now 19 other sponsors and growing. It was enlightening in a most unfortunate manner, even as I appreciated two Representatives’ questions and comments about this expensive bill.
So here’s my re-hash of this bill passing out of that committee, 9-2. Pardon my provincial concerns here, but I think many other family advocates have suffered through the same circumstances in their Capitols.
One witness supporting the bill, besides Scherer, was retired Macon and Piatt County Regional Superintendent of Schools, Richard Shelby.
Richard Shelby is part of the organization (Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools), supplying a lobbyist to testify in a Senate Education Hearing a couple years ago. IARSS wants Illinois homeschoolers registered with the IL State Board of Education and affirmed that in 2011. It’s a job builder.
In response to Representative Wheeler’s questions regarding homeschoolers and how this bill would affect the “very large homeschool population“, Shelby said the majority will not be affected because most homeschoolers are already starting at age 5. I assume he meant formal schooling, as that is what seems to drive public school authorities’ engines.
One of the other bill sponsors, Representative Davis, thinks 5 and 6 year old children are “much more mature these days.” She pointed out there are studies showing the “greatest time for learning takes place before the age of 7.” Then she said curious, questioning children “should be provided every opportunity for structured learning.” Modern education history shows that is actually an unfortunate prospect in who would receive an opportunity for the good. Many of us don’t start our kids in formal education that early, because many studies, along with parental common sense, dictate better late than early. My twin sons started reading and writing at a later age because, for one, their manual dexterity wasn’t ready yet. But I don’t have a teacher union dictating our activities, unless these bills keep passing. IEA and IFT both support this bill, might have written it. At a tender, young age, my sons would have been terribly discouraged if they suffered under forced expectations in a classroom or “structured learning” at home. Thank goodness we could take our time, in their time.
Shelby did agree with Representative Wheeler and the effects of this bill. He said: “Yes, it would affect them [homeschoolers] starting at the age of 6.”
If this bill or SB 1307 passes into law. Representative Wheeler helped vote this bill through the Committee with her Yes vote.
Shelby got the homeschool question because he “worked a lot with local homeschool associations.” That is confusing to me, as I don’t understand how a public school official needs to work with homeschool organizations. That’s why we left the public schools behind, wasn’t it?
Public ≠ Private
Today, Supt. Shelby followed the typical public school mantra of patting you on the head, while kicking you in the pants. “Most homeschool students do a very good job, but we also have a segment of the homeschoolers who remove students to escape from truancy laws.” Who determines the homeschooling segment that could be considered truant? The same people who ask what curriculum you use on their Home School Registration Form that isn’t required, but routinely handed out by Illinois Regional Offices of Education? My kids learned in the parks, the woods, on our farm reading huge amounts of books, drawing, painting. We had no science, reading, English or art curriculum name that I could write into that box. But what we did worked and they flourished.
There is already a statute in place covering the supposed problem of public school truancy:
Sec. 26-2. Enrolled pupils below 7 or over 17.
(a) Any person having custody or control of a child who is below the age of 7 years or is 17 years of age or above and who is enrolled in any of grades kindergarten through 12 in the public school shall cause him to attend the public school in the district wherein he resides when it is in session during the regular school term, unless he is excused under paragraph 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 of Section 26-1.But realistically, most parents don’t do that. Parents send their kindergarten and first grade children to school with expectations, just like they do in the older grades.
Do we want truant officers from those Regional Offices of Education checking to see if homeschoolers are “formally educating” our young children at 5 and 6 years of age? That seems unfortunate to me. Even as 64% of other states lowered their compulsory attendance ages to 5 or 6, they might not be in the dire financial straits Illinois is in. When asked by Representative Roth about the financial costs, Scherer said ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) estimates 28 to 39 million dollars if this new bill passes into law. Scherer wasn’t concerned about that, just the lack of data. She also said ISBE reported it is: “extremely hard to find the data on…just best guesses and for one…they do not have that data and cannot collect the data on the ones leaving to go to private school or being homeschooled.” But yes, they can and they do. If the children are in public school and want to transfer out to private school, after the parent notifies, the school is to give them a Transfer Form. Plus the school administrator also provides a quarterly report to the Regional Office of Education documenting students leaving the school. It made me wonder what more data they need and where they think they should be getting this elusive data.
I suppose I know that because I homeschool and am not a legislator.
So I hope Illinois can keep our homeschooling freedoms as they are. That we keep our lawmakers educated about their bills. It would be wonderful if Illinois could do one thing right and that is keeping the compulsory attendance ages in a tighter range to protect our little ones, all our little ones. Besides not adding one more unnecessary expense to our broken state.
SB 1307, a proposal to lower the Illinois compulsory attendance age to 5, instead of HB 2762′s drop to 6 years of age is still sitting on the calendar for the final Senate vote. A Senator called for a fiscal note on that bill, which seems perfectly logical in the broken state of Illinois.
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the Right.