Some people just don’t think before they write. Or before they propose laws.
The anonymous writer of a recent opinion piece (and the Senator who first sparked the registration debate in Illinois) did not think this thing through. Any thinking person with a knowledge of the facts simply cannot support the conclusions they’ve drawn.
Let me provide a bit of background information. In January, Illinois Senator Edward Maloney (which interestingly enough rhymes with bologna) introduced a bill (IL SB136) that would require Illinois homeschoolers to register with the state. In his very emotional testimony during an Education Committee Hearing on February 15th, Mr. Maloney communicated that he just “cares about the children.” He just wants to ensure that no children slip through the cracks. During the hearing, Mr. Maloney and a scary Illinois truant officer further explained that if they don’t know where the homeschoolers are, they can’t help them. All they want is to know where the homeschoolers are. They just want to help.
Some 4000 homeschoolers descended on the Illinois capitol the day of the aforementioned hearing. As a result, Senator Maloney quickly (evidently) realized that he hadn’t adequately thought things through and his bill was quickly withdrawn. For the moment Illinois homeschoolers are breathing a sigh of relief. But just for the moment. Unfortunately, Senator Maloney has made it clear he’s not finished. (By the way, the homeschoolers at the capitol that day were reportedly quiet, polite and respectful…and they didn’t do ANY damage to the capital building…unlike certain teacher’s union supporters in neighboring Wisconsin over the last few weeks!)
This morning, my friend and co-blogger, Arby, shared some thoughts on an opinion piece posted on the website of The Belleville News-Democrat. Arby suggested that his readers take a look at the post and leave a comment of their own. Here’s the jist of the point being made by this anonymous writer of ill-advised opinion:
“Illinois has some of the most relaxed homeschooling requirements in the nation. In our view, there needs to be greater accountability. In addition to registering, we think students should be tested every year to ensure their education is progressing at the proper pace. For parents doing a good job of teaching what’s required by law, such testing would validate their work. For the rest, it would be an opportunity to fix what isn’t working.”
First. He hasn’t done his own homework on Illinois’ supposed relaxed requirements. Illinois has standards that homeschoolers are required to follow. These standards have been in place since the court case of People vs. Levison in 1950. Since that time, the burden of proof has been on the homeschooler to provide documentation of compliance with the standards…when challenged. The fact that homeschoolers are rarely challenged does not change the fact that the standards exist. If the requirements are “relaxed”, it’s only because Illinois officials have always opted to leave homeschoolers largely unchallenged. And for that we are truly thankful.
Second, the writer seems to believe that the registration and testing of homeschooled children would give Illinois education officials a way to identify the “broken” homeschoolers and “fix” what isn’t working. The comment I left on the anonymous opinion post explains what I think about that….
“I just did a little bit of math. According to records and statistics supported by the ISBE*, the number of Illinois public school children that are falling through the cracks is 495,434. That number comes from the total number of children enrolled in 2010 (2,064,312) divided by the composite percentage (24%) of Illinois school children that do not “meet standards.” (All tests, 3rd-11th grade)
“The picture is even worse when you filter out the results from Illinois’ 11th graders. Of 134,007 11th graders tested in 2010 (PSAE), 45% do not “meet standards.” Add to that number the 12,912 11th graders that were evidently enrolled in 2010, but were not tested (more than likely because they have already “fallen through the cracks”,) and it’s clear that 73,215 of Illinois’ publicly enrolled 11th graders have already fallen through the cracks.
“Your post states that 50,000 children are homeschooled in Illinois (all grades). Let’s assume for a moment that Illinois’ homeschooled children are failing at the same rates as the children being school in Illinois public schools (which I can assure you they are NOT.) That would mean that 12,000 homeschooled children are failing to meet standards.
“Hmmm, so let’s see….the number of homeschooled children that MIGHT be falling through the cracks is just a small fraction of the number of Illinois public school children that ARE falling through the cracks. In fact, the TOTAL number of homeschooled children in Illinois is a tiny percentage of the number of Illinois public school children that ARE falling through the cracks. Clearly, Illinois has a much bigger real problem to solve than the imagined problem of homeschooling.
“When Illinois educators (and politicians) can prove that they are capable of solving the problem of children that are already falling through the cracks in their own schools, then maybe they’ll have a leg to stand on when they attempt to convince homeschoolers that they are here to “help.”
*All records/statistics were pulled directly from the Illinois Interactive Report Card, a project that was “created at Northern Illinois University with support from Illinois State Board of Education.”
My opinion? Purveyors of strong opinion concerning homeschoolers and what they need should really do their homework before waxing eloquent.