Lobbying to Be Left Alone

Most Illinois homeschoolers are the rare breed of people who feel a duty to lobby in Springfield for nothing more than to be left alone.

The Virginia based K12 corporation has been lobbying hard in IL ($$) to create a state-wide virtual school. K12 already provides curriculum to the Chicago Virtual School, which appears to be satisfying many public school parents. Even as the Chicago Teachers Union fought its initiation in an ugly manner with a lawsuit they lost. CTU contended the Chicago Virtual School shouldn’t be publicly funded as it was a home-based homeschool.

Homeschoolers can appreciate the public Chicago Virtual School parents’ satisfaction with their children’s education.  But K12’s business ambitions have compelled many homeschool groups to keep K12 out of their homeschool conference vendor halls.  The reasons were exemplified by a high profile K12 spokesperson and former federal Department of Education Secretary, Bill Bennett.   He refused to understand the homeschooling way – as it got in his way.

From Home Education Magazine’s Larry and Susan Kaseman:

The major differences between Bennett’s goals and those of most homeschoolers can be seen clearly in Bennett’s comments during an interview by Mark Standriff on WSPD radio in Toledo, Ohio, August 16, 2002.

Standriff: What kind of opposition have you folks found?

Bennett: We found opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. Some of the homeschooling people have opposed us.

Standriff: Oh really, I would think this would be right in line with their thinking.

Bennett: Well it should be. Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’ve been defending homeschoolers for twenty years. But the principle I’m defending, Mark, is school choice, parental choice. The objection they have is that it shouldn’t be involved in public funding, at all. It shouldn’t be involved with government schools, as they say. But, I’m not prepared to relinquish $400 billion and just say, well never mind, this is not money that I’m entitled to. Parents are paying that money in taxes, they should have an option within the public school system that gives them a chance to educate their children at home, but be publicly accountable as all public schools should be.

Bennett’s entitlement project has caused huge headaches for homeschooling advocates, along with some homeschoolers who found the ‘free’ curriculum and computer took away their free time for educational enrichment.

A Virtual School Act sponsored by Representative Chapa-LaVia is sitting in the Illinois House Rules Committee. A similar bill (HB 3743) sponsored by Representative Chapa-LaVia came up just about a year ago, and it was a bit shocking to see homeschoolers referenced in this public virtual school bill again.

When I called Representative Chapa-LaVia’s office last year, I was told by an aide that she hadn’t discussed this bill with homeschoolers- before inserting mention of us. And here it is again, and here is the “home school” reference again.

One major concern is any “home school” reference in Illinois statutes. We have private school status via a 1950 IL Supreme Court ruling. Private schools in the non-home based buildings help protect our tinier minority of homeschoolers via coalitions and such. We could lose that umbrella protection with “home school” separation from other private schools by precedent setting statutes like this one. I know that was explained to Representative Chapa-LaVia’s office.

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

“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. Representative Chapa-LaVia is the chair of the Appropriations-Elementary & Secondary Education Committee. Handling the IL school funding and appropriations is a powerful job, even if our Illinois government won’t balance our budget or pay bills on time as private citizens do.   Words via legal documentation do count and those words can take away freedoms.  Whether there is funding or not.

This was also posted on the Illinois Review and IL Home Education Network.

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Oak Brook Borders requires Homeschool Certification and Licenses

Educator Appreciation Week runs through Oct. 7 at Oak Brook Borders, 1500 16th St. Borders will honor current and retired teachers, librarians, licensed homeschoolers, school administrators and daycare facilitators with 30 percent off the list price of nearly everything in stores, including books, music, movies, toys and games, gifts and stationery and Seattle’s Best Coffee cafe products. Educators will need to present proof of educator status, which can be a pay stub or an identification card with a current date. Homeschoolers must present their homeschool certification.

Any homeschooler can create a nice looking educator ID card.

The license and certification might be a bit of a problem per this Borders’ behest. Certainly not a bad problem.  Illinois homeschoolers don’t need, or have licenses/certification.

Surely other Borders stores aren’t requiring this?  The tone seems antagonistic, in singling out homeschoolers who “must present….”.

Educational Rigor Prevails: Indian Prairie School District Homeschool Policy

This homeschool policy (705.02: Part-Time Attendance by Private or Home-School Students) was approved unanimously by the Indian Prairie School District 204 on June 22, 2009.

From the Beacon Herald:

D204 compromises on home-school policy

June 25, 2009 By TIM WALDORF

The first draft of this policy, presented at the May 25 board meeting, upset some home school families, who argued it would effectively prevent home school students from ever graduating from the district because their programs more often than not aren’t and can’t be accredited.
“The difference that you’re going to see in this new version versus the old is that in the old we indicated that we were not going to accept any credits from a no-accredited school toward graduation. So they would all have to be accredited or else we weren’t going to issue a diploma,” said Mike Popp, District 204’s school improvement and planning director.
“In this version, we’re saying, ‘You know what? That’s not appropriate.’ We’re going ahead and saying we are going to accept those credits, but we put in what you talked about last time: is there a way for us to sit down with an individual student and talk about those individual courses to go ahead and honor the credit that he or she earned?”

This policy below seems appropriate:

The policy will also require these students to complete two credits in a District 204 high school in each of two consecutive semesters prior to graduation. So, in their senior year, these home school students seeking District 204 diplomas — District 204 estimates there are roughly 15 of them a year — will have to attend a District 204 high school on nearly a full-time basis, and pass four senior-level classes in order to graduate.

Previously, these students only needed to amass two and a half credits for a District 204 high school over the course of their high school career to earn a District 204 diploma.

Home school families whose students don’t meet these criteria would, instead, have to issue their own diplomas.

That seems like a fair policy.  Oddly, the  National Center for Educational Statisics (NCES) criteria uses criteria that homeschoolers are any kids who are in the public school 25 hours or less/week.  5 hours a day in the public school classroom could deem one a homeschooler in the federal Department of Education definitions.

One other question is why homeschoolers would be entering the public high school just to get a public school diploma? That piece of paper might not be as useful as a homeschool diploma, or doing as many Illinois homeschoolers do,  and just entering ‘higher education’ with transcript in hand.

“The example, by way of analogy that’s in my head, is that it’s what a university would tell you,” said board member Mark Metzger. “You can’t accumulate credits at Eastern and Western and Southern, and then call up U of I and say, ‘I’m going to take a class there, and I want my diploma from you.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

If a public school diploma is sought, the student should be enrolled and that public school should be attended.

More here about the May meeting:
Educational Rigor

Homeschooling Law Guides- according to education lawyers

This was on Market Watch:

Homeschooling Law Resource Guide – Released by the Education Law Association

Last update: 11:04 a.m. EST Dec. 3, 2008
DAYTON, Ohio, Dec 03, 2008

The Law of Homeschooling is a resource guide that provides information on recent updates to homeschool statutory and regulatory requirements for all fifty states as well as Washington D.C. This publication takes an in-depth look at each state’s legal requirements under which parents may provide a home-based education to their children.
Confusion over homeschooling law exists within a vast realm of subject areas. This resource guide answers those questions. The publication is intended to be used by parents, students, homeschool advocates, and public school officials to do what is in the best interests of the children: to ensure that each child receives an appropriate education within the context and scope of the law.

This statement seemed definitive: “This resource guide answers those questions.

I question the accuracy as I read on.

The author, Brian D. Schwartz, J.D., is the Associate Director and General Counsel to the Illinois Principals Association. He also maintains an active private law practice in the field of education law and is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Mr. Schwartz is the immediate past-chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Education Law Section Council and was a member of the Education Law Association’s Board of Directors from 2004-07.

It appears to me that counsel to the IL Principals Association (a lobbying group) would not be neutral in opinions of homeschooling law.

Illinois has no homeschool law, along with several other states.

There is another book that is published by the Illinois Association of School Boards: Illinois School Law Survey Brian Braun. There were a couple of references to homeschooling in the 8th Edition that I have. Here’s one below listed under Home Schooling:

May a school district or the State Board of Education adopt rules regulating home schools?

Courts in other states have upheld state regulation of home schooling, including certification requirements for home-school teachers and minimum curriculum requirements, finding that the state has a compelling interest in the education of children. In Illinois, however, the General Assembly has opted to not interfere with home schooling and has not enacted legislation.

Local school districts have the authority to regulate their own programs, which has the indirect effect of regulating certain aspects of home schooling to the extent home-schooled students avail themselves of various aspects of the public school program.

~Susan

ROE 12-Clay, Crawford, Jasper and Lawrence Counties

ROE 12 (Clay County, Crawford County, Jasper County, Lawrence County, Richland County) calls in homeschoolers on a regular basis to the Truancy Review Board..

I don’t see anything on their website about homeschooling, but might have missed it.

One homeschooler stood up to them and refused to conform. Hopefully there have been more. Apparently some homeschoolers are called in as often as 4 times a year to the Truancy Review Board.

Please remember, homeschoolers, that registration is not mandated or necessary.  Your written assurance to the Regional Office of Education is sufficient in that you are legally exempt from the compulsory attendance statute because your child(ren) 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.