SPRINGFIELD -- Families from all over Illinois mobbed the Capitol Tuesday morning to protest a bill that would require parents who home-school their children to register with the state.

SPRINGFIELD -- Families from all over Illinois mobbed the Capitol Tuesday morning to protest a bill that would require parents who home-school their children to register with the state.

Hundreds of families – their children in tow – packed the second floor of the Statehouse and a meeting of the Senate Education Committee to oppose Senate Bill 136, which requires registration of students in non-public schools, a classification under which home schools fall.

Sponsor Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, pulled the bill from consideration, saying he agreed to not introduce the legislation pending the outcome of the committee testimony.

“A bill was introduced that had consequences beyond what I was trying to accomplish,” Maloney said.

Maloney said the idea for the bill came about in conversations with acquaintances who told him there is no regulation of home schooling in Illinois.

Opponents of the measure argued that requiring home-schoolers to register would provide no benefit to a majority of students, while imposing a burden on parents and costing the state money.

Scott Woodruff, senior counsel for the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, said his organization helps home-schooled families find legal guidance in regards to which states have the best environments.

He typically ranks Illinois in the top 12 or so among states with the least burdensome home-school laws.

“If SB136 passes, or any version of it, I would have to knock Illinois down quite a bit,” Woodruff said.

Supporters said the lack of regulation leads to abuse of the system and families falling through the cracks.

“There are children whose education and well-being are not being addressed by home schooling,” said Michael McCreery, executive director of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.

“With our knowledge of them being in our geographic area, we can point to programs … we can assist. We can not assist without our knowledge of their existence,” he testified. “Every child should have the opportunity to someday sit where you are right now.”

Steve Bandy, a health care analyst with the state from Athens, was at the statehouse to protest the bill. Bandy has five children, age 22, 19, 17, 10 and 8 – all home-schooled.

“I listened to the testimony, and the one question I still have … families are falling through the cracks, and that was evident up front, but how will registering address these families?” Bandy said.

Bandy’s primary concern in home schooling his children was making sure they developed strong values, something he said he felt his family could do better than the public schools.

“My bride and I, we see what their (our children) needs are, we know we’re complying with the state – we’re teaching them foreign language, science, math – all the aspects required, but we are the ones able to determine what curriculum we pull in.”

He said this allows them to tailor the lessons to each child’s strengths, as well as allowing them to not require their children to study areas they do not agree with, such as the theory of evolution.

Some parents turned the event into a civics lesson.

Scot Shelburne, pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Peoria, took his four home-schooled children to the Capitol.

“They had a field trip today,” Shelburne said. “We’re trying to teach them how to respectfully lodge your opposition to a bill and see democracy work.”

 

Andy Brownfield can be reached at 782-3095.
 

Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.