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

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Lee/Ogle Regional Office of Education-Homeschool Report

The Lee/Ogle Regional Office of Education notes in their 2008 Fiscal Report that 67 Lee/Ogle County homeschoolers are registered with their office.  The 2007 Lee/Ogle ROE reported  58 kids were registered in Lee/Ogle Counties.

We shouldn’t and don’t need to know that information.  Again this good advice bears repeating:

Illinois Homeschoolers –­ Eight Reasons Not to Register

By Harvey Bluedorn, New Boston, Illinois
1. Because there is no requirement to register in Illinois. Period. Administrators attempt to impose their will upon individuals through intimidation, harassment and coercion. They invent requirements which have no foundation in law. When our freedoms are infringed upon by government bureaucrats, they become emboldened to take the matter another step. Continued at Trivium Pursuit site

The Lee/Ogle ROE reports this information in their HEART Center (Homeless Education and At-Risk Team) Report under the heading of Funding for Lee/Ogle Programs for Struggling Students.

There is no good reason that the Lee/Ogle County Regional Office of Education authorities should consider homeschoolers as  “struggling students” who are “at-risk.

Under the Lee/Ogle Dropout Intervention System (LODIS) in this report, it makes note of this:

Home-schooled student registration-67 students registered

Fox News on homeschooling/unschooling

Fox News had an interview/debate this morning on unschooling/homeschooling.   Pat Farenga of Holt Associates/Growing Without Schooling and a life coach were the interviewees.

Helen Hegener posted the heads up on Home Education Magazine yesterday: Pat Farenga on Unschooling.
The Fox News website also had an article from 2008: ‘World of Warcraft’ Gets Kids Interested in School

But the person talking in this case is Constance Steinkuehler, an educational researcher who organized an afterschool group for boys to play, for educational purposes, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
Some of the eighth graders and high school freshmen who signed up for the group couldn’t have cared less about writing or reading in school.
Yet those students have gone from barely stringing together two sentences to writing lengthy posts in their group’s Web site forum, where they discuss detailed strategies for gearing up their virtual characters and figuring out tough quests.
“It has worked ridiculously well,” Steinkuehler said. “It shouldn’t be working as well as it is.”
Video games are also being embraced by some advocates of “unschooling,” a type of home schooling that puts kids more in charge of the curricula.

Continued at the site.

We can hope that education researchers remember the benefits that Ms. Steinkuehler discovered in an “after-school” group also have redeeming qualities in a homeschooling environment.

Another Piece of Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch

Learning in the Land of Lincoln

Learning in the Land of Lincoln

Welcome!

Deborah and I have been wanting to do this for some time as another networking piece of Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch.  The yahoo group is great, but a blog reaches out to others who might want easier access on the ‘net.

Our hope is to make Illinois homeschool networking more user-friendly and informative.  Regional Offices of Education information have been added in these first posts.  Look around and see if your area is included.  If it isn’t, wonderful….hopefully that’s good news for area homeschoolers.  If it is listed in one of these posts, then please comment on experiences; good and bad.

Problems can be more easily fixed with widespread support from our homeschool community.

If any would like to become a member of the Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch list, please link over to yahoo groups here and join in.

Oklahoma legislator wants state oversite of kids’ fitness

If Oklahoma Rep. Richard Morrissette has his way, all homeschooled and public schooled students will have to have their weight and height checked by officials, and if a child is deemed as under- or over-weight, parents will be told to get Little Johnny or Little Suzy to get in shape … or else.

For more on the story, click here.

ND homeschoolers want more freedom

Apparently homeschoolers in North Dakota must currently be monitored by licensed teachers. Parents are talking to the legislature about changing that. As expected, the state superintendent is against any changes. For more on the story, click here.