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.

Advertisements

Hamilton-Jefferson County Regional Offices of Education

Hamilton-Jefferson County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Brian Cross was referenced in an early 2010 Centralia Sentinel article regarding homeschooling in the area:

According to Hamilton-Jefferson Counties Regional Superintendent of Schools Bryan Cross, three students were registered this year as homeschooled, down from 15 during the 2008-2009 school year and 26 in the 2007- 2008 school year.

Cross said there is no law requiring that students be registered with ROE, and therefore there may be a greater number of area students who are receiving an education at home.

We can assume the decreased number of registered homeschoolers was the result of informed homeschoolers observing their rights and responsibilities in Illinois. There are no requirements to register with the Regional Offices of Education or the IL State Board of Education.   That appeared to be distressing to Cross, and his public school colleague, Kerri Garrett – Clinton, Marion and Washington County Regional Office of Education Supt.  They started after homeschoolers by pursing daytime curfew ordinances in towns and villages within their regions.

Mt. Vernon passed a truancy curfew ordinance [Section 12.20].  A “bona fide participant in an alternative education or homeschooling program” will have a “defense to prosecution”.  Businesses will also be subject to prosecution if they “allow a minor to be present or to remain upon the premises of the establishment …. during curfew or truancy hours”.  The parent or guardian must take custody of the minor within one hour of them being detained by police, or they shall pay $25/hour.

For example, if a 16 year old homeschooler is walking to the library or work at say 2 pm, and is picked up by police – if the parent or guardian is unavailable -at work,  they will be paying a lot of money for that walk down the street if they don’t drop everything and pick up their teenager at the police station.  Many homeschoolers have been threatened by store clerks or owners who tell them they shouldn’t be out shopping during public school hours in these towns with daytime curfew ordinances. Families who head out for excursions should not pass go, but head straight home.  Seems like businesses would have fought an ordinance like that.  They lose business from homeschoolers, and they face potential prosecution.