ROE Solutions Project – Letters Sent Out to Regional Offices of Education

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch is in action.  A long time homeschooler compiled a Regional Office of Education (ROE) database recording over-compliance demands ROE offices have posted online.  Using that database, a committee (or Gaggle, as we like to call ourselves in non-school terms) put together letters and mailed them out last month.  Just to give an idea of the tone and content, below is a sample letter.  Each of these letters were personalized to the particular Regional Office’s of Education problems that need to be resolved.

Dear ….,

We have observed an increasing number of over-compliance demands against homeschoolers from Illinois Regional Offices of Education and would like to bring specifics to your attention for correction.

It has come to our attention that your office is disseminating incorrect information regarding the rights and responsibilities of homeschoolers in your area.  Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch was formed in 2006 to help homeschool families navigate and understand legal and legislative issues that concern them.

Our legal responsibility is to ensure that our children are taught the branches of education that correspond to the public schools and that instruction is in the English Language. (Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/26‑1: Compulsory school age Exemptions).

Illinois homeschoolers tend to be close-knit, well-networked support communities that also work together to maintain our families’ educational autonomy.  We are now aware of some concerns regarding your Regional Office’s activities and correspondence relating to homeschooling.

  • In the ISBE Legal Memorandum you’ve posted, there are erroneous assumptions.  Homeschools do not need to be monitored any more than any other private school.  There must be just cause to monitor a parent or guardian for not fulfilling the responsibilities laid out in 105 ILCS 5/26-1 exemption requirements. Homeschooling is not educational neglect and does not make one truant.
  • Registration – You ask parents to fill out a registration form.  The actual form does state that the form is voluntary, even though the inference throughout is that the form is mandatory, including a September registration.  There is no need for a Home School Registration Form from ROEs, as there is not mandated homeschool registration.  Again, homeschoolers do not need to be monitored.

We will keep our group members informed about your progress.  We are maintaining a website and blog that reports problems that homeschoolers have in various areas around Illinois.  Please be aware that we check the accuracy of Regional Offices’ of Education information, both on-line and off.

As your Regional Office does not have a favorable rating at this time, please be aware that we are motivated to help improve your ratings.  We look forward to hearing from you by October 15st, 2010, so we can report this to our members.

Very truly yours,

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch letters were sent to 18 Regional Offices of Education around the state.  Those Regional Offices are: Bond-Effingham-Fayette, Boone-Winnebago, Carroll-JoDaviess-Stephenson, Champaign-Ford, Chicago Public School, Clinton-Marion-Washington, DeKalb, DeWitt-Livingston, McLean, Edwards-Gallatin-Hardin-Pope-Saline-Wabash-Wayne-White, Fulton-Schuyler, Kane, Lake, Lee-Ogle, Marshall-Putnam-Woodford, and Peoria, Sangamon and Will County.  There are 56 Illinois Regional Offices of Education.  Their job responsibilities do not require chasing down homeschoolers to register them in attempt to oversee their private school, which also happens to be their home.  Even the IL State Board of Education acknowledges that ROE “cooperation management” is to “assist the ISBE in the evaluation and recognition of public schools, and private schools who ask to be recognized”.  A government official handing a registration form to homeschoolers telling them they need to fill it out on an annual basis is quite the opposite of asking to be recognized.

Over one third of the ROE offices in 38 counties are requesting intrusive information from Illinois homeschoolers, and it appears that many Regional Offices of Education are systematically attempting to apply their unwarranted policy regarding homeschoolers.  There are more problem Regional Offices of Education, but these are the ones posting on-line demands.  Much of the problem heads straight back to the IL State Board of Education created Illinois Home-School Registration Form that is sent to the Springfield ISBE Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Department.  Homeschoolers do not have to report progress or be analyzed and these forms are not required in Illinois statutes.

There has been no written response from the Regional Offices thus far.  We will continue to follow this issue, track the offices’ information and take action after October 15th if there are no positive results.

If any homeschoolers know of any other problems with Regional Offices of Education besides these addressed here, please contact us and we’ll address it.

Chicago Virtual Charter School

The Chicago Virtual School’s approval by the IL State Board of Education in 2006 is covered in this article:

Chicago Schools Opens Its First Virtual Elementary School

Opposition to the Chicago schools’ new virtual elementary school stem from a variety of areas. Here are just a few:

• Computers will replace teachers and/or reduce their role in education, eliminating many teacher positions.
• The one-on-one attention that students may receive in a physical classroom setting will be lost.
• Virtual students in the Chicago schools will not receive enough social interaction, stunting their socialization skills.

The Chicago Teacher’s Union sued K12, ISBE (IL education governing body), Chicago Public Schools and other individuals, and lost. The lawsuit seemed to center around IL statute language that calls for “non-home based” charters. The K12 program is of course, built around the computer use being home-based. The Virtual also included a once/week science class attendance in a brick and mortar building. I imagine the brick and mortar classroom inclusion was to try and fend off the union’s concerns about the lack of social/emotional peer support in the classroom as quoted by the Chicago Teacher Union president:

“For them to think they can address the social and emotional issues of a child without being in the same room as that child is ludicrous,” Stewart said. “You can only adequately address these issues in a classroom where you have necessary peer support and peer interaction.”

More here:  Virtual Schooling on Fox News

Here’s the actual statute that the quibble is about.

(105 ILCS 5-27A-5)

Sec. 27A-5. Charter school; legal entity; requirements.

(a) A charter school shall be a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, non-home based, and non-profit school. A charter school shall be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation or other discrete, legal, nonprofit entity authorized under the laws of the State of Illinois.

For years, many IL homeschoolers were assuming that public school virtuals wouldn’t make their way into IL because of the particular statute phrasing quoted further down in this post;  that charter schools must be “new options” and that the charter will “create new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system”. Illinois had already created a public Virtual High School. And I think homeschoolers were resting on their laurels in that public school virtual was already created, and therefore blocked “new options” for virtual public schools.

But the Chicago Virtual is for K-8th grade. AND the IL legislators who created the charter school act were contacted this summer by K12 and virtual school proponents about what they -really – meant with that language.

Here’s the  quote from the Chicago Public School lawyer concerning the legislators’ responses:

“Rocks, the attorney for Chicago Public Schools, said the restrictions on “home-based” charter schools mushroomed from concerns that home schools were trying to become charter schools simply to get public dollars. He presented letters from state lawmakers who voted on Illinois’ charter school law, and said their intent was not to block Internet-based schooling.”

Here’s part of the legislative declaration concerning “new options”:

(3) The enactment of legislation authorizing charter schools to operate in Illinois will promote new options within the public school system and will provide pupils, educators, community members, and parents with the stimulus to strive for educational excellence.

(c) In authorizing charter schools, it is the intent of the General Assembly to create a legitimate avenue for parents, teachers, and community members to take responsible risks and create new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system. The General Assembly seeks to create opportunities within the public school system of Illinois for development of innovative and accountable teaching techniques. The provisions of this Article should be interpreted liberally to support the findings and goals of this Section and to advance a renewed commitment by the State of Illinois to the mission, goals, and diversity of public education.

So lesson learned, vigilance is eternal and question everything. IL homeschooling was dragged through the mud because of a public school issue.

Public School Programs Are Not Homeschooling

Virtual Schooling on Fox News

Here’s the link to the ~3 1/2 minute video from yesterday about public virtual schools: Virtual Schooling

Homeschooling came up immediately.

We all know home schooling is growing like wild fire spreading like — in this country. Tell me about — how virtual schooling differs from traditional home school ….

The guest responded accurately:

It’s full time public school so that differentiates from home schooling … home schooling is …not state funded. There are no report cards traditionally. It [virtual schooling] is public school and you abide by the test scene and — the requirements of the brick and mortar schooling.

She also gave a representation of the public virtual school advantages:

It’s self paced. It’s working at .. how they learn best and also you can engage in so many wonderful enriching curriculums that may not be provided — by your public school. “

They have more time outside the classroom with their family.

Illinois had a public virtual high school.  It is now called the Illinois Virtual School for grades 5 through 12, and is run by the Peoria County Regional Office of Education. Here’s what they say on their website:

Schools

The Illinois Virtual School partners with public, private, and home schools to provide online learning for students and educators.

Chicago has one public virtual school.  Information about the school is located on the private K12 corporation‘s site.

Here is a Chi-Town article about the Chicago Teachers Union lawsuit against this virtual public school. The lawsuit was dismissed last spring:

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel A. Riley rejected both arguments. He wrote that although the school shares attributes of home schools, it is not a home-based school. Further, he said, because it is a charter school, it may define supervised instruction differently from state law.

“There are differences between the way we do education and traditional home schooling,” says Bruce Law, head of the Chicago Virtual Charter School. “On that difference — that’s where we were making our case.”

Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, says the difference was not enough to merit public funding. Since students of the virtual school spend most of their time learning at home, she says, they are essentially home-schooled.

“For someone to take public funds to home-school their children is not right,” she says. “It should not be on the backs of a majority of our students who are in our public schools.”

Chicago Public Schools-Homeschool citations

The quotes and links are from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) site. Comments are interspersed throughout.

Homeschooling

Illinois State Board of Education – Data Analysis and Progress Reporting

The link above goes directly to an ISBE created (Illinois State Board of Education) Home School Registration Form.  That form is NOT mandated and as you’ll notice in the link, it’s updated every year and the personal family information is put into the ISBE Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Dept database. Most homeschoolers would strongly discourage sending in that form for your sake and to prevent precedents set for other homeschoolers.

Harvey Bluedorn wrote wise words in Illinois Homeschoolers –­ Eight Reasons Not to Register

The ISBE Home School Registration Form and this requested CPS Statement of Assurance form linked below is invasive and unnecessary. Illinois homeschoolers are not required to notify (unless transferring from a public school to homeschool), let alone sign a Statement of Assurance.  From the CPS website:

Statement of Assurance – Parent – Taught at Home Instruction

Supplying CPS with your child’s birth date and “instructional services” records of hours per week et al, are not necessary nor required per statute. Course materials…ie curriculum …is not their business either, despite demands from this Statement of Assurance form:

That the instructional services will be provided by the following instructor(s). (Continue list on an attached sheet if necessary.)
That the course materials which will be used are: (Continue list on an attached sheet if necessary.)

Statute 105 ILCS 5/26.1 provides exemption from public school attendance and curriculum rules and demands. If this information is provided in an annual Statement of Assurance and Home School Registration Form, they’ll be back the next year and next with lots of questions.  ‘Why did you change curriculums?’  ‘Unschooling?!’

“Branches of education” are noted in the private school compulsory attendance exemption statute.  It does not list the specific subjects of  “language arts; the biological, physical and social sciences; mathematics; fine arts; and physical development and health“.  Listing private schools’ (homeschool) specific subjects seems very presumptive when individual school districts cover (or don’t cover) subjects such as fine arts.

One of Mr. Bluedorn’s points (Illinois Homeschoolers –­ Eight Reasons Not to Register) was this:

5. Because the notorious “statement of assurance” which once circulated in Illinois was a legal contract which placed you under the administrative authority of the public school system. Once you signed, your legal status changed from a free (non-government) school to a government school.

The Chicago Public School system still requests a Statement of Assurance.

[9/09-This information below is not on the updated CPS site (via my search skills).  I’ve updated the CPS links above that still require (without basis) the Statement of Assurance and Home School Registration Form-SR]

From the CPS Elementary Schools & Support website:

Homeschooling – Frequently Asked Questions

What does “commensurate education” mean?
It means “there must be an organized, coherent plan for educating the children in a homeschool
using appropriate materials and teaching methods.” (1991 Illinois Attorney General Op. 92)

Resource List for Private Home Schools

This letter is also included on the CPS website.  Apparently it is part of the homeschool packet (Statement of Assurance, Home School Registration Form, etc) sent out to homeschoolers.  A packet from a school district might seem official and final in their requests.  But yet, a Statement of Assurance and Home School Registration Form are not required to homeschool in Illinois.

October 2007

Dear Parent or Guardian:

This information is made available to provide basic information regarding homeschooling.

Case law and the Illinois School Code permit a parent or legal guardian to educate his or her child at home if instruction is given in the English language (Section 105 ILCS 5/21-1.1).  As the parent or legal guardian, it will be your responsibility to provide your child with an organized educational program using appropriate materials and teaching methods in order to satisfy statutory requirements.

Please be aware that the State of Illinois requests that parents or guardians of homeschooled children complete the Statement of Assurance (attached) from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and provide a letter which describes the manner in which you will be instructing your child at home.  These two documents should be filed annually for each child and either mailed or hand-delivered to the Office of High Schools and High School Programs, Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark Street, 12th Floor, Chicago, Illinois  60603.

If your child is entering kindergarten, fifth or ninth grades, you should also mail a copy of your child’s shot record and current physical to CPS.  If your child is entering ninth grade, you should also include verification of your child’s completion of eighth grade requirements, if your child did not graduate from a Chicago public school.

It is important to note the State of Illinois requests parents or guardians of homeschooled children to also complete the Illinois State Board of Education’s Home School Registration form (attached).  The information collected is for informational purposes only and is requested based on the requirement that the State Board make annual reports on education in the state.  Call the Illinois State Board of Education at 1-866-262-6663 to obtain answers if you have questions concerning the report.  The Home School Registration Form should be mailed annually to the Illinois State Board of Education, Data Analysis and Progress Reporting, 100 North First Street, S-284, Springfield, Illinois, 62777-0001.  Please also mail a copy to CPS at the address mentioned above.  Include the date you mailed the form to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Under Article 26 of the Illinois School Code, the Regional Superintendent of Schools is vested with the authority to ensure all children between the ages of seven and seventeen are provided with an appropriate education.  Failure of a child to attend school when s/he is required to do so may result in a referral to the Office of the States Attorney as a violation of Article 26.  If in the judgment of the public school district of residence the home instruction given is not commensurate with the standards prescribed in the public schools, the home instruction will be investigated by the State of Illinois.

In addition to the materials mentioned above, please review the following information the CPS Policy on Home-Schooling and Minimum High School Graduation Requirements at the CPS website at http://cps.k12.il.us.  Attached please find frequently asked questions regarding home-schooling and a resource list for private home schools.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of High Schools and High School Programs at 773-553-3540.

Sincerely,

David G. Gilligan

DCG/lcn

Send questions or comments about content on this site to:
Office of High Schools and High School Programs

CPS Elementary Schools and Support also has FAQs listed, along with the Statement of Assurance form and a 2005  amended and signed off CPS Board Report on Homeschool Policy.

~Susan