Public School Withdrawal Audits

Texas homeschooling rights are similar to Illinois home education legalities.  Per a Texas Supreme Court ruling, homeschoolers in Texas are considered private schools the same as any brick and mortar private school building in the state.  The 1950 Board vs Levisen IL Supreme Court ruling determined our Illinois private school status as homeschoolers.  There have been other similarities with Texas along the way.  But the IL State Board of Education hasn’t called for an audit as the Texas Education Agency has.

The Texas Education Agency audited more than 22,000 public school withdrawal records to determine whether the transfers were intending to homeschool -as the records indicated, or whether public school officials had jimmied the records in a manner to keep the dropout rate down in their school districts.

In an attempt to ensure that public school districts aren’t disguising high school dropouts, the Texas Education Agency is conducting an audit of students who withdrew under the auspice of home schooling. …… More than 22,620 Texas secondary students were listed as withdrawing to home-school in 2008 — raising a red flag among some experts and educators who worry that Texas’ lax regulations are encouraging abuse in the hands-off home-schooling category. The 2008 figures reflect a 24 percent jump from the prior year and roughly triple the number of high school home-schooling withdrawals from a decade ago.

The Houston Chronicle published the article quoted above earlier this month [High number of home-schooled students leads to state audit JENNIFER RADCLIFFE Sept. 2, 2010].  The quote calls the Texas homeschooling rights “lax regulations”, but that is an unfortunate description.  Our rights aren’t lax, they’re free of bureaucracy.  And homeschoolers are not responsible for the lax accountability of public school officials. Other than the tax monies expended.  Tim Lambert has it right.

The Texas Home School Coalition applauds the state’s efforts to crack down on public school districts who are “dumping” dropouts in the home-schooling category. Although the group strongly opposes government involvement in home schooling, it acknowledges that this audit is not being conducted to reproach families who are educating their children at home. “School administrators are violating the policy and causing these problems,” coalition president Tim Lambert said. “The solution is, in our view, to put in place some sort of penalties for school officials who are abusing this process.”

Firing tax paid officials doing this doesn’t seem out of the question.  I’ve seen this process used  in at least two different Illinois school districts, and the brush off of those students and families was not intended to be in the kids’ best interests.

In Illinois, school authorities have contorted the issue into a “no-school” problem,  trying to draw homeschoolers into their net.  It’s odd and disturbing.  Clinton-Marion-Washington County Regional Office of Education Supt. Keri Garrett seems to have gone a different direction and invented a truancy problem, suggesting she must have daytime curfew ordinances because : “Instead of figuring out the problem, they’ll [parents] yank the child out because they’re not old enough to drop out and tell me they’re going to homeschool”.    She wrote up daytime curfew ordinances for various towns in her area that call for town authorities to report any homeschoolers to her office, if they are stopped and questioned while out and about during ‘school hours’.  As private schools, Illinois homeschoolers are not restricted by the public school schedule or calendar.  They are also not required to report to bureaucrats.)   She attempted pushing this ordinance in Salem and Salem homeschoolers fought back. The ordinance was dropped.  I should mention that in 2009, Salem had a .2 % chronic truancy rate.  That’s just one example emanating from one Regional Office of Education.

Some similar questions about artful public school dodging have arisen from some of our neighbors to the east. Richmond, Indiana’s high school received the Lugar Education Patriot Award from their Senator Lugar heralding the school’s apparent change in status from a 2007 “dropout factory”.  In 3 years, their graduation rate has increased from 56% to 80%, and I’m sure all schools officials want to know their secret.

The leap in the school’s reported graduation rates has not come without some heightened scrutiny and concern, including from one school board member.
Longtime board member David Stidham, who is serving in his final term, questioned during a board meeting last November how a reported increase in home-schooled students has impacted dropout rates.
Students who transfer from one school to another, as with those who choose home schooling, do not count against graduation rates but dropouts do.

Seems to be a pattern.

Homeschool advocate, Ben Bennett (Indiana Home Education Network), asks on his blog:

The question is: will the attacks on the homeschooling community come before the facts about the tactics of Government Schools are known?

The attacks on the Illinois homeschooling community are here.  Looks like Texas is trying to deal with the issue, the Indiana Education Agency seems to be ignoring it, and Illinois school authorities are trying to restrict homeschooling rights because of some public school system twists and turns.  The time is now to fight back.  Stay tuned…

What Educational Trends Might Mean to Illinois Homeschoolers

The Northwest Herald had a guest column last February –Trends point to bright future ahead – written by the Asst. Regional Supt of Education for McHenry County:

McHenry County always has featured an excellent and efficient system of public education. Our private schools and home-school tradition are remarkable, too.
The education provided by our community makes a significant difference in the quality and types of opportunities available to our young people as they transition into independence.
The success of our youth should come as no surprise. Our schools work well with our children because they are our schools.

He also wrote this below:

“Perhaps most interesting is the increased interest in virtual education. Currently Illinois has a virtual high school, and Chicago has a virtual charter school. While the Illinois General Assembly has entertained a statewide program of virtual instruction, the states of Kansas and Florida already have them. The flexibility of virtual public school is interesting a surprising number of parents. Parents become the primary facilitators for their child’s instruction as they work through lessons delivered online. The state would be funding a system that would facilitate the education of a child but be delivered by the parent with instructional software.”

This school official had kind words for homeschoolers and other private schools, but the combination of a powerful legislator and a ROE official pushing virtual education with a “home school” legislative twist can give a homeschool advocate an unsettling feeling. See Lobbying to Be Left Alone

Ralph Nader on Homeschooling

About 2 hours and 3 minutes into an In Depth C-Span interview with Ralph Nader; Nader explains why The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of his favorite books.  Nader responds that it’s the demonstration of the power of self-education.

Nader advises that: “Anyone who wants to teach their children should learn from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”  He then went on to explain his concerns about overscheduling kids, along with the current role models like Lady Gaga, drugged up sports ‘heroes’, et al.

Inevitably,  the C-Span interviewer, Peter Slen, asks Nader …”So…What about homeschooling?

Homeschooling should allow more solitude, more contemplation, more connection with nature around, you know, in the hills and the valleys and the rivers, so you know the geography in the area where you live.  Homeschooling is a great option.

It is indeed.

Not all homeschool methods use curricula

Oregon’s Statemans Journal had an article about homeschooling, and included some information from a Bloomington support group leader.
Not all home school methods use curricula
Choices abound for parents who teach kids themselves

“We support one another,” said Shelly Nelson of the Crossroads Areas Home School Association of Bloomington, Ill. When people inquire about curriculum, Nelson said, she asks about their teaching style and their child’s learning style. “There are different ways to educate your children,” she said. “When you get to the junior high and high school level, I believe there is a great need for some books.”That doesn’t necessarily mean going to one curriculum company for all subjects, she said. “You choose the best curricula for each subject level.” But buying curricula and textbooks can be costly, especially if it means purchasing several until you find one you like. To help parents, the association’s National Home-School

Holding a Madagascar CockroachHonor Society chapter created a curriculum closet filled with material collected from publishers and home-school families. Some of the 400 or so volumes are religion-based; others are secular.

There were other suggestions about finding the best educational opportunities
for your child that keeps their interest and joy in learning.

Janice Hedin’s son was into model rockets, so she used that as a starting point for his home-school curriculum. Her daughter loved horses, and that became a focal point for her education.
“She owned it,” said Hedin, of Maple Valley, Wash. “It was hers. I didn’t have to force anything because she loved every minute of it.” Some home-school parents create their own curriculum for their kids. “There should never be a set curriculum,” Hedin said. “Every child is so unique. Our goal as parents is to custom design the education that fits our children.”

Follow the child’s passion, and there are endless opportunities to fill up the brain.  Helen Hegener provides more details about unit studies:

One popular form of home schooling is unit studies.
“Basically, take something like trains, say, and it’s amazing what you can learn,” Hegener said.

From an Illinois homeschool advocacy aspect, the reason why we need to keep pushing back against the IL State Board of Education and the Regional Offices of Education is to keep them from limiting us with Registration Forms asking to “provide the name of the curriculum to be used”. We are not required to provide the name of our curriculum -if we use curriculum – let alone fill out a Registration Form.  (The ISBE website link where the form is posted will not be linked here.   There is concern that ISBE gets  far too many hits and moves up a google search page with their “Home School” site as is. )

ISBE’s over-compliance requests for registration forms attempts to limit our autonomy and freedoms with too many questions about our children. The joys of homeschooling are that we can move at our children’s pace keeping track of their educational needs without worrying about filling out forms, or changing information on those forms.  Worse yet, we don’t need or want to be answering questions from a bureaucrat who knows nothing about our child. Some of us use curriculum.  Some of us mix up various curriculums.  Some of us don’t use curriculum.  (Our family got by fine without any science textbooks.) Homeschoolers have better ways to spend our time than filling out invasive, confusing forms.

DeKalb Regional Office of Education

The DeKalb County ROE has “Home Schooling” listed on the sidebar under Services. I think most homeschoolers don’t consider the Regional Office of Education/ISBE attempts to co-opt homeschooling a particular service.

Here’s what is quoted:

Illinois court decisions have established that a parent may teach his/her own child/children in their home provided that the child’s educational program satisfies the requirements as set forth in the Illinois School Code.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has an approved Home School Registration form available

I took out the link, as the ISBE needs as little help as possible with their website. What is an “approved Home School Registration form“? Was it approved by our legislators? No, or it would be law. If it’s not law, despite the over-compliance requests of the public school authorities, our private homeschools do not have to register with the Dekalb Regional Office of Education nor the IL State Board of Education. It would be detrimental for homeschoolers to do so.

The Catholic or non-sectarian private school down the road does not fill out Registration forms.  Homeschoolers, as private schools, should not fill out registration forms.  It’s much more personal for us when they’re  honing in on our homes.  They should respect that.   We’re not accountable to the ISBE Data Processing and Progress Reporting department.

One other reason it would be a bad idea is apparent below.   If you don’t have to “Complete All Areas of this Form” and return one copy here and one copy there, and then wonder if a Data Analysis and Progress Reporting department will find more hoops for you to jump through, why do it?

Please Complete All Areas of this Form then

— RETURN one signed copy to:

Tatia Beckwith, Assistant Superintendent
DeKalb County Regional Office of Education
2500 N. Annie Glidden Road, Suite C
DeKalb, IL 60115

— And RETURN one signed copy to:

Illinois State Board of Education
Data Analysis and Progress Reporting
100 N. First Street, S-284
Springfield, IL 62777-0001

This above request for paperwork only feeds a bureaucracy.  Homeschoolers can fulfill our children’s educational well being by taking the time to visit a wonderful museum or park rather than filling out invasive paperwork.  That’s one of the great joys of Illinois homeschooling.

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.

Homeschoolers and Daytime Curfew

Salem folks didn’t back down and a daytime curfew ordinance was not passed. Here’s an excerpt from a WJBD radio article about the police chief’s good sense:

Salem Police Chief Withdraws Support For Proposed Ordinance on Truancy

Campo says there is still a law in place the police department can use to address truant students. “We can approach kids for truancy violations, the proposed ordinance was merely an attempt to get the kids that are truant into the system faster,” he says. “We can still do it the old way, so it doesn’t change what we can do in the least.”

Unfortunately, other communities in Keri Garrett’s ROE didn’t defeat the daytime curfew ordinances.  An area homeschooler said that the villages of Central City and Iuka passed daytime curfew ordinances.

Below is a portion of  Keri Garrett’s ordinance proposal for towns in Clinton, Marion and Washington counties.  Remember too, that homeschoolers generally don’t keep public school hours, and it’s certainly not mandated to do so in Illinois statutes.
Here’s just a piece of the 6 page ordinance proposal:

“Whenever a Police Officer is provided with the information that the minor is enrolled in a private school (home schooled) the officer will check with the parents/guardians and verify this information. This contact information will be forwarded to the Regional Office of Education #13 in Salem.”

Besides the basic freedom of movement rights any law-abiding citizen should have, the only (bad) reason that contact information should be sent to the ROE by a law officer is to track down homeschoolers.
I assume that Central City and Iuka passed this 6 page monster w/o any changes.  Central City has one grade school, and I’m not sure that Iuka has an active school building in its community.   Did it get passed because they didn’t have a heads up, or they just didn’t think it was a problem?

A Centralia article is posted here, regarding ROE #13’s attitude about homeschooling.  It also included information about ROE #25, based in Mt. Vernon and McLeansboro.