Homeschoolers not the problem
SouthtownStar Editorial February 11, 2011 8:52PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
We’re in trouble here in Illinois.
We can’t secure our teachers’ futures, pay our firefighters’ pensions or fix our bridges. We’re bleeding jobs across the border. We can’t pay the people who serve our poor and needy.
But perhaps the biggest trouble is how we leave too many children far behind. In 2010, 54 percent of our students met expectations in their reading skills, 52.7 percent in math.
The others? Almost half of all our children?
That’s why we’re bewildered by a plan by some state legislators to try to “fix” home education.
Across the state, thousands of families are quietly pursing their own path. Not burdening the system, not asking for a handout, not sucking up tax dollars, not filling up the youth prisons or wreaking havoc on the streets. (No, we don’t have numbers on this. But do you know anybody mugged by a homeschooler?)
In a time when the burdens of Illinois are staggering, the menace of unregistered homeschoolers seems to rank — oh, maybe 145,678 on the list of things that need fixing, somewhere after rules on toilet paper ply-strength and gerbil husbandry.
We don’t want to make light of any child’s education or their chances at the future. But we do find a tinge of the preposterous here. Is it possible that some families are not providing their children adequate instruction? Surely.
The skill of parent-teachers runs the gamut — just as it does in public schools, where teachers range from inspirational to reprehensible. (That’s why we suspect firing Mom might be easier than firing a tenured teacher.)
To Sen. Ed Maloney (D-Chicago), who worries that officialdom of Illinois doesn’t have the legal right to reach into a family’s home, we say: That’s a hallmark of a free life. Life isn’t perfect. It doesn’t come with guarantees. Parents are free to raise their children under the laws of Illinois.
Some children are reading Shakespeare in utero, others spend their babyhood propped up by a TV screen. Some kids go to Harvard, and some are passed to 10th grade in the public schools yet struggle to read.
At a time when the state clearly cannot educate the children in its purview, we think it would behoove it not to seek out more to monitor. That’s what Senate Bill 136 sets out to do — register homeschool students so the state can track their whereabouts.
It’s not a far-fetched paranoia to wonder what comes next, and how Maloney wants to use this data. In fact, that’s pretty clear.
“There are virtually no regulations on homeschools. No curriculum, no periodic checks on their progress,” he said. “We want more accountability.”
We understand Maloney’s concern to protect the children of this state.
Yes, it’s a gamble to believe all parents do the right thing — just as we gamble that they offer good nutrition and clean diapers and love and books in the family home. We’re not prepared to hire nannies of the state, and we’re not preparged to force homeschool families to be under state control.
As a newspaper, we believe strongly in the need for public education. That’s to ensure every child has a chance to learn — whether or not a parent is willing or able to spend hours every day on education.
For the small number of families that choose to take that burden on themselves, we are willing to take that risk in exchange for the right to choose our own educational path.
These kids might be a little different; they might learn slightly different things in slightly different ways.
But we’re Americans, and we approve of that.