Ill. Homeschool Bill Dropped after Thousands Protest

Corrections Appended

 A proposed Illinois bill to mandate homeschool student registration was tabled after 4,000 home school supporters flooded the state capitol to protest.

Homeschoolers and advocates from several state groups including Illinois Christian Home Educators (ICHE) and Home School Legal Defense showed up at Tuesday's hearing to urge state lawmakers to leave them alone. The overwhelming response against the bill led lawmakers to reconsider the proposal.

"I would love for Sen. Maloney to understand that this is a hot potato and to leave well-enough alone," said David Smith of the Illinois Family Institute.

Illinois is one among a dozen states where homeschooled children are not required to register with state education officials.

Chicago Democrat Sen. Edward Maloney's proposed bill calls for mandatory registration and recognition of non-public elementary and secondary schools in order to ensure that all state students are participating a in "state approved educational institutions and programs."

The bill would require homeschools to register their students with the Illinois State Board of Education annually.

Smith said the state is arrogant to assert that it knows better than parents. Homeschools are doing fine and do not need government help, he insisted.

"Don't fix what's not broken," he proclaimed.

Still, state law requires that homeschooled students get education commensurate to in-school students. Officials say the mandatory registration would allow the state board to offer homeschooling parents educational tools and supplements.

Currently, the State Board of Education has no method to enforce the requirement unless local officials have some reason to bring the family to court.

Smith fears that mandatory registration today may mean state infringement on homeschool curriculum tomorrow.

"Illinois is one of the 10 best states for homeschooling, and we want to keep it that way," said Smith.

Smith and ICHE had urged homeschooling families to hold a Homeschool Freedom Summit at the state Senate Education Committee hearing.

The crowd of 4,000 people moved Maloney to reconsider his proposal.

The legislation "has had consequences that were beyond what I had intended," Maloney told St. Louis Today.

Correction:  Tuesday, February 22, 2011:

An article on Wednesday, February 16, 2011, about an Illinois homeschooling regulation bill incorrectly reported that the bill was dropped. According to the Illinois General Assembly's website, Senate Bill 0136 to amend the school code to mandate registration for non-public school students was tabled for later consideration by sponsor Sen. Edward Maloney. Also, 4,000 individuals, not families, attended the protest.

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