On January 27, 2011, Senator Edward D. Maloney, D-Chicago, filed SB 136. Just a little over a week ago the news of Senator Maloney’s bill began to gather steam within the Illinois homeschool community. It was a week of scrambling to get information about the now infamous bill…a week of incredibly well-organized fact-finding, communication, networking, and mobilizing on the part of homeschoolers from all over the state of Illinois.
On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, the homeschoolers of Illinois descended on Springfield to remind Illinois lawmakers that the state is accountable to its citizens, and not the other way around. Hundreds of homeschooled children, along with their parents and grandparents, got the civics lesson of a lifetime. In total, more than 4000 citizens made their presence known. This is how democracy was designed to work. This is how citizens respectfully, but forcefully, stand their ground.
And in the end, the citizens prevailed. This morning, the news was good. On February 17, 2011, SB 136 had been “tabled.” According to the glossary of the Illinois General Assembly, tabling a bill means “laying on the table or killing. Tabling removes a bill…from consideration.“
There is some question as to whether Senator Maloney intends to let the matter die. In a radio interview this afternoon, Mr. Maloney expressed a desire to continue to pursue the “truancy issue.” It would be wise to continue to be vigilant. However, today’s victory is still a victory. On the Illinois Christian Home Educators (ICHE) Blog, Jeff Lewis who spoke for Illinois Homeschoolers at the hearing on Tuesday shared thoughts about today’s victory. I appreciate his explanation of the current situation:
“We are grateful that today the state senate voted to table Senate Bill 136. The vote came at the request of Senator Maloney, who introduced the bill that led to the hearing by the Senate Education Committee on February 15. That hearing brought to life the collective voice of 4,000 homeschoolers appearing at the State Capitol and thousands more who got involved even if they could not be in Springfield. Our voice has been heard; our legislators have listened. Just as ICHE encouraged families across the state to intervene during the past few days, so now we encourage those same families to express their gratitude for this decision in favor of freedom.
Many have rushed to point out that the bill was not actually voted down, or that another bill could easily be introduced that would start the debate all over again. That may well be true, but homeschoolers in Illinois live with that possibility every day. That thought may not have occurred to many of us before this week, but that is the nature of our legislative process.
ICHE’s Legislative Task Force is optimistic about Senatory Maloney’s willingness to listen to our input. He has publicly stated that he wants to work with homeschoolers, not against us. Senator Maloney was willing to sit down with us the week before the hearing, and we would welcome future discussion to help him understand the hearts and minds of the families of ICHE.
For now, we are rejoicing in God’s mercy to allow us to continue in the freedom we have enjoyed for many years in this state. As we look to the future, we are trusting in that same mercy to lead and guide us. “
So what’s next for Illinois Homeschoolers?
First, we need to thank Mr. Maloney for his decision to table this bill. ICHE and HSLDA also deserve our gratitude for arguing this case so effectively. If you have not had the opportunity to watch clips from the hearing, please do. It was VERY informative!
Next, we need to stay informed and involved in the fight to preserve our freedom. Several organizations can help keep homeschoolers informed in the weeks and months to come. ICHE’s Legislative Task Force, HSLDA, and the newly formed Illinois Homeschool PAC (currently only on Facebook), can all provide us with a wealth of information in the days ahead.
It’s been an interesting week.
Now, it’s time to get back to school before that mean truancy officer comes knocking on my door to offer his “help.”