homeschoolers victims of “identity theft” in Illinois SBC136 debacle

A group of my speech students ready to hear the proceedings during the Senate Education Committee hearing on February 15th.

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”

I am feeling a bit like this writer as I watch the amazing videos and photos that were shared today from yesterday’s historic day in Springfield. 4000 homeschoolers gathered outside our state capitol to express their opposition to proposed SB136 which would require registering all homeschooling families in Illinois. In the immediacy of the moment while trying to accurately share what I was hearing from the Senate floor via my Facebook page, somehow I had missed the loveliness of what I know to be our central value: families committed to each other and committed to homeschooling! Now seeing these precious families lining the hallways under that beautiful rotunda and hearing their sweet voices singing, laughing, and sharing the freedom we have as homechooolers, I am a little wistful that I wasn’t outside!

I will be blogging about my personal thoughts about this in the days to come but wanted to first share my overall impression of the actual hearing and the possibilities I think it could offer to us along with some of my concerns.

There is some confusion today and it is being reported that Senator Maloney withdrew SB136. Actually, he had decided early on that he did not want to include private school students, as originally planned, and to place these restrictions only on homeschooling families. Yesterday’s Senate Education Committee meeting was for the purpose of hearing testimony on both sides of the idea of mandatory registration of homeschooling families. There were several things that came out of this meeting that were disconcerting to me and give me pause as to the direction this might take:

Many of those who make laws that affect homeschoolers are fairly ignorant of the actual laws and court decisions involving the education of homeschoolers.
One senator even stated that homeschoolers have no standards required by the state, ignoring the very ones outlined in the actual law. This was handily corrected by one of the attorneys present. Frankly, I was amazed at the lack of coherency in some who spoke. I had several of my speech students with me who were amazed that elected officials who run for office weren’t better prepared, both in content and in presentation.

Bill Reynolds, a truant officer from southern Illinois testified that he believes all homeschoolers need to be registered so he can know where there are problems because he “wants to help” homeschoolers. Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are I’m from the government and I’m here to help?” When asked how that would be accomplished, Reynolds said only by registering all homeschoolers and having the authority to enter all homes. He went on to say that he would be able to recognize those who were doing a good job when he walked in the door by the fact that there were books around the house, etc. He was clear to differentiate between the “cream of the crop,” ie those demonstrating yesterday, and those who “fall through the cracks.” How much sense does that make? How does he know we are the “cream of the crop?” He hasn’t been in our homes or talked to any of our children or looked at our books! The best part of his discussion was when one of the senators asked him “How do you expect us to write all that into law?”

Another school administrator told one anecdote of a child from his school district who was supposedly homeschooled but he had no way of knowing it was true because he couldn’t find the family. He pushed for registration for this reason! He was quite emotional and concerned “for the children.” He also suggested that there should be qualifications for parents who homeschool but all those in favor of registration agreed that that would really be difficult to do. After hearing his testimony it is clear to me that the real problem, if, in fact, it is a real problem, is NOT homeschoolers. It is impostors who use the word “homeschooler” for whatever reason. Why should there be restrictions on all families because someone is choosing to use our name? Perhaps this is a situation of identity theft. And how did he know the family missing from his system wasn’t actually homeschooling if he couldn’t find them? This was the “evidence” that caused Senator Maloney to call for this discussion.

One of the senators stated that she doesn’t personally know any homeschoolers, which prompted an open invitation from the entire hearing room for her to get to know us!
I believe many school administrators and legislators have no personal stories of their own that make a case for homeschooling because too many people have been fearful of taking the time to get to know those they perceive to be the enemy. We need to change this. I am not talking just about showing up with a cherry pie on legislative days where we stop in to meet a representative or working on someone’s campaign. This can be difficult and in some situations might not be wise, but I think we could make a better effort to engage with those outside of our homeschooling circles. I know that our own family has been exceedingly blessed by becoming friends with a variety of people who share different life experiences and perspectives. Some of those people are now our greatest supporters and some have even offered to write letters and testify on our behalf if need be. We know how charming homeschoolers are. Let’s share this knowledge!

I left with the distinct impression that there were three senators on the committee who supported our position
. I know of several others who also oppose the registering of homeschoolers as well as quite a few members in the House. While some of the questions that came up during the hearing are disconcerting and will perhaps invite more people to want to look for bad stories to support their views, I keep remembering what it would take to actually get this placed into law! We need to pray for the legislation to be stopped before it goes any further and prepare to continue fighting if it is isn’t!

As the meeting closed, Senator Maloney’s final remarks came with some obvious emotion. Perhaps he was feeling the pressure of the 4000 homeschoolers in nearly every square inch of the capitol building and on the lawn. Maybe he was moved by the sweet presence of babies and delightful children of every age alongside moms and dads of conviction and courage. And then there’s the fact that numbers make a great deal of difference to politicians who like to be re-elected. Maybe he was pondering the 2 hour discussion he had just heard where those testifying on his behalf betrayed an agenda of further control and bureaucracy, aware that the Illinois electorate has reached their limit of big government and taxation. Maybe thoughts were going through his head about how they would pay for these new regulations. (My elderly mom asked me if they would charge us for registration, like they do for license plates. Shhhh, don’t give them any ideas!) For whatever reason this man was visibly moved, I would encourage us all to pray for him and for the other members of his committee, that the Lord who holds the heart of the king in his hand will move them to do the right thing.

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  1. Pat says

    Yes, a better effort to engage with those outside of homeschooling circles would be a worthy goal. I followed Karens day on
    FB, and was so impressed by the passion of those involved and appreciative of the democratic process that made that all happen. Then, I read a response to a post….it felt like a rude and disrespectful slam to my 31 years in pubic school teaching, that one of your friends didn’t trust ANY public school teacher with her children…..Would you appreciate it if I said that I didn’t trust any homeschooling parent to educate their children properly???? No one can afford to make blanket statements like that. Even in the heat of the arguement. I had so much respect for your cause until I came to that sentence.

  2. says

    Wow, Pat, I missed that comment! They were coming so fast and furious that I still haven’t caught up with all of them. I totally disagree with that as do the homeschooling families I know. In fact, I have homeschooling friends who are also public school teachers!

    I offered written testimony yesterday and chose just one point to make and that is I believe homeschoolers and public school teachers agree that the number one thing that makes education successful is parental involvement. I think teachers are expected to be moms and nurses etc. to children whose parents think “Its their job.” I find that appalling. Teachers are there to teach and inspire and even mentor. They are not there to take the place of parents who aren’t willing to do their jobs. I will post my written testimony. And I am so sorry for this offense. It certainly doesn’t speak for the homeschoolers I personally know!

  3. Pat says

    Thank you for easing my hurt feelings. : ). yes, things were fast and furious, and most impressive with your support system yesterday. There are many important points in this debate, and isn’t it wonderful that we are free to define and share and discuss what is best for the children. You do a great job as flag bearer and spokesperson.

  4. says

    I know tons of great teachers that I would trust any day. It’s the system I don’t trust. The system that these great teachers fight with every day to ensure the best education for their students. My own mother, after homeschooling 5 kids, is now a public school teacher. I even know public school teachers whose wives homeschool their own kids because they know how broken and ineffective the system is. I have great respect for these people. They are probably the sole reason that the entire government school system hasn’t imploded completely.

  5. says

    Perhaps it’s because I was thinking about this yesterday, but here’s what struck me: If some of these lawmakers don’t know the law, don’t know a single homeschooler and are unaware of the success/failures of homeschooling… what’s coloring their view of homeschooling that they would push for this law? I hope that they begin seek out the answer to that question. My hope is that once they discover the source of their distrust for homeschoooling is most likely not tied to homeschooling at all, they will abandon this kind of legislation.


  6. says

    Luke, this is a good point. I am a people watcher and was really studying those who were asking questions of those representing both sides. I believe there were some who already had their minds made up and I was hoping that they would hear some new information that might give them pause. If you look at the contributors to the campaigns of those senators, there are tens of thousands of dollars being paid to them by the teacher’s unions. Senator Maloney was asked on a radio interview on Monday (WLS) if he had discussed this issue with any of the teacher’s union reps and said he had not, which I find hard to believe since they are his single biggest campaign contributors.

    But I also think there were others there who honestly don’t get us. I mean, if you looked around and were totally unfamiliar with homeschooling, you would have been blown away. Here is this beautiful old capitol building with the most amazing architecture, very prim and proper and governmental, and all the hallways lined with moms and dads and strollers and toddlers and so many excited and sweet children! The children were polite and oh how I love to see teenage sons carrying toddler siblings! Even one of the senators said that when she arrived that morning and walked through security, she wasn’t fearful as she is when there are other groups! I think we are just foreign to them. And that is exactly why we must engage.

    Another thing that I have learned this week is that if I really want liberty, I cannot depend on any outside group to represent me or be the one watching to preserve those liberties. A homeschooling mom discovered this was in the works and HSLDA sat on it with a “wait and see” attitude, even telling families not to contact legislators until they said to do so. After watching and seeing how this was moving forward, she repeatedly called and asked for help. When she got no response, she called a homeschooling mom in the media who got the word out. We have got to build relationships with our own legislators if we want to preserve our rights!

  7. Anthea says

    I hope you succeed, Karen. As you know, the UK home educators saw off a similar attempt to limit our freedoms by the previous government. Sometimes other events help you: the UK bill never made it because parliament had to stop for the election — an election which the Prime Minister was forced to call, because the recession was making his government look bad.


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