This is the story of a family that is homeschooling…by default. It’s an unbelievable story reported by the Chicago Tribune. Here’s a brief synopsis.
Sebastian is a six-year-old first grader who lives with his single, divorced mother in Homewood, IL, a suburb of Chicago. His mother, who has legal custody of Sebastian, is a neonatal transport nurse who works 12-hour nightshifts several times a week. On the nights when his mother works, Sebastian sleeps at his grandmother’s house in another suburb. Then in the morning, either his father or his grandmother drive him to school, or on occassion, to the bus stop near his house in Homewood.
According to district officials, Sebastian told "someone at school that he doesn’t live in town, he just comes to school here". After an investigation which began back in October, and evidently did not involve questioning the boy’s parents, the district removed Sebastian from school on December 10th. He has not been allowed to return. Authorities in Beecher, IL, where Sebastian’s dad lives, will not allow Sebastian to attend school there, because his dad is not the "residential parent". And Homewood WILL NOT back down. Never mind the fact that Sebastian spends the majority of his nights at home with his mother in a Homewood house owned by his tax-paying great-grandmother. Never mind that the reason he doesn’t sleep in Homewood every night is that his mother is a hard-working single mother. Never mind that the Illinois State Board of Education bases residency on the parent who has legal custody. Never mind logic.
So Sebastian is being homeschooled while his parents try to force his school district to give him an education.
If this was just an individual case, it would be just that, an unbelievable story.
But this story is important for a much bigger reason. In fact, Homewood’s seemingly illogical stand is somewhat justified. Parents all over the country are violating residency rules and attempting to cheat their way into good schools and school districts. Homewood alone removes 20-25 "border jumpers" from their schools each year. In this case the parents weren’t cheating. Sebastian should be a student at Willow School in Homewood. But he got caught in the big net created to catch kids whose parents are just trying to get them a decent education.
Sebastian’s misfortune simply highlights one of the biggest flaws in our government-run school system. And one of the reasons that MANY Americans homeschool!
Parents want their kids to receive a good education. That’s not too much to ask of a system that gobbles up millions of our tax dollars every year, is it? But as illogical as it may seem, in a consumer-driven economy which thrives on competition, when it comes to the education of our children, we quietly accept mediocrity without demanding something better. Parents watch helplessly, year after year, as inept administrators and educators take their hard-earned money, and with it, completely fail their children. It’s ridiculous.
The solution is a simple one. Give parents a choice. Let schools (and businesses that cater to homeschoolers) compete for our tax dollars. Instead of forcing the child to follow the tax dollars, let’s let the tax dollars, in the form of vouchers, follow the child. Bad schools will die for lack of business, just like a store with bad management or a restaurant with lousy service inevitably dies. And a school that consistently serves its customers well, will not only survive, but will thrive. Kids will be the big winners. Sounds logical doesn’t it?
So why do educators, and the politicians who they support, consistently, and loudly, block legislation that would bring competition to our nation’s schools?
It’s ALL about the money.