In Illinois, Kwame Raoul, Presidential candidate Senator Obama’s replacement as State Senator, has once again introduced a bill to lower the compulsory attendance age. Even as there is some controversy in Illinois as to whether this is a homeschooling issue to contend with, Senator Raoul’s bill to lower the compulsory attendance age 2 years ago was defeated by homeschoolers who did call their representatives. Even after it sailed out of the Rules Committee, passed through the Senate Education Committee and Senate and thankfully died in the House.
This current bill appears to have the appeasement amendments that were added to the last bill in hopes that it would pass. And it also includes a mandatory establishment of kindergarten in all Illinois school districts. Currently, kindergarten is not mandatory in Illinois public school districts, despite the understandably common misconception that it is. This is a concerted effort by various groups in following up with the Preschool for All initiatives trumpeted by Illinois Governor Blagojevich. Below is the synopsis of SB 541 :
Introduced 2/8/2007, by Sen. Kwame Raoul
SYNOPSIS AS INTRODUCED: Amends the School Code. Beginning with the
2007-2008 school year, lowers the compulsory school age from 7 years to 5 years; makes a related change. Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, requires all school districts to establish kindergarten for the instruction of children who are 5 years of age or older. Adds any child attending a non-profit or for-profit child care center that provides kindergarten where children are taught the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools and where the instruction of the child in the branches of education is in the English language to the list of children who are not required to attend the public schools. Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, provides for an exception to the compulsory school age provision for any child who has not reached the age of
7 years by September 1 and whose parent or guardian notifies the school district or school that he or she does not wish the child to attend school until the following school year because the child, in the opinion of the parent or guardian, is not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared to attend school. Provides that in such cases, the child’s attendance may be delayed for one school year. Effective immediately.
In testifying at the Senate Education Committee, Senator Raoul said this in his last attempt: “I wish this bill was lowering the age to 3!” In his good intentions, he also leaves little to the imagination with the following quote, as he stated in the Chicago Sun-Times last year. (This article is in the archives.):
Ready or not? Should kids be in school at 5?: Kindergarten? Preschool? Parents wrestle with decision
Author: Maudlyne Ihejirika The Chicago Sun-Times Date: July 30, 2006
“The home-schooling lobby also fought the bill sponsored by state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago). It squeaked out of the Senate but died in the House. A 2003 effort by state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) saw a similar fate. “Logically, it doesn’t even make sense to talk about preschool for all if we don’t say you have to have your kids in kindergarten,” Raoul said.”
I’d like to pursue his and others’ thought process a little further observing the educational path of those who haven’t been served well by the public schools within the current compulsory attendance age range.
My kids and I took a field trip to Springfield in 2005 to observe our legislators in action. We didn’t hear anything at the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Hearing concerning Senator Raoul’s 1st bill SB 409 that day, but we saw many people filing in to the Capitol with t-shirts and banners for some type of rally. The t-shirts and banners displayed slogans about adult education and literacy.
How ironic that on the same day that a bill was to be heard in Committee making demands for more mandatory seat time for little children 2 years younger than the current requirement, Adult Education proponents were pursuing more funding with their rally. If the public schools were serving these very people well from kindergarten up to 17 years of age, then there wouldn’t be this tremendous need for adult education classes. There is no rationale for children’s sake, to increase compulsory attendance age mandates for younger or older ages. Perhaps too many times, and notwithstanding public school successes, compulsory attendance laws don’t assure an education but instead it only assures warm bodies in the well funded building. That visit inspired me to write a letter to the editor that was published in the Sun-Times along with a few other newspapers thanks to some help from a family advocate with a fax machine set to Media.
These legislative policies can certainly be lucrative for the education industry. How could someone so fresh into the Senate at the time, (six months), be able to ride this bill through the Senate into the House reducing the compulsory attendance age not just one year but 2 years? Maybe it was the same type of ride that increased the compulsory attendance age to 17 years January 1st of that year, (with little resistance from homeschoolers). One can only look at the number of sponsors added onto the 2005 bill to see there was a definite agenda in support of the freshman Senator’s actions. Despite the individual good intentions, the general picture is this is rationally not “about the kids”.
Senator Raoul and others ignored hundreds and hundreds of calls and requests to withdraw the previous bill, so it isn’t surprising now that Senator Raoul is back again with the same. One can only assume these were parents making these calls. And one can immediately see the regard given to these parents and constituents by legislators who rebuked them with the message that our representatives wish it was for 3 year olds instead of the proposed age of 5.
If you follow Senator Raoul’s hopes, it’s not surprising to see that the National Conference of State Legislatures includes a plan for Early Childhood via Zero to Three initiatives. (“From the time of conception to the first day of kindergarten“. Seems awkward if the little ones are not able to climb bus steps without help.
Are proponents of these initiatives thinking that homeschoolers don’t need any of that? I would seriously wager that just the opposite is the case.
It appears that the current bill to change Illinois compulsory attendance age to 5 from 7 is in the Rules Committee at this time. It’d be great if it stopped there.
Posted by Susan