SPRINGFIELD -- State Senator Ed Maloney (D-Chicago) told Illinois Review Wednesday that he's now working with the State Board of Education State Superintendent Christopher Koch to come up with homeschooling guidelines to be used by local truancy officers and schools.
Maloney said he met Tuesday morning with homeschooling representatives, Superintendent Koch and staffers to discuss ways the state can be assured children of compulsory attendance age are attending school, especially those whose parents say they are homeschooling.
"I want the homeschoolers to know that I have the greatest admiration for what they do. It takes a great deal of determination and patience to teach their own children. I'm not sure I would have been able to do it with my own," Maloney said. "But I stilll have concerns about kids who are not really being homeschooled and denied the education they should be getting."
Maloney said the ISBE superintendent confirmed that current statutes pertaining to homeschooling are vague, and balancing privacy with enforcing the compulsory attendance law is a challenge. Truancy officers complain that when they investigate potential truants, they are simply told the families are homeschooling, and there's no way in law to verify whether what they claim is true or not.
"The real question is determining the authority to inquire what is reasonable cause of truancy and what is suspicion when it comes to checking on homeschoolers," Maloney said.
Two weeks ago, Maloney and the Senate Education Committee held a subject matter hearing concerning registration of homeschoolers. Capitol officials estimated 4000 homeschool supporters came to the Capitol that day to express concern about a law change. The next day, Maloney tabled SB 136, a bill he had proposed which would have caused all non-public school students to be registered with the state.
When Maloney withdrew the proposal, he specified that he would pursue meeting with homeschool representatives in order to come up with a registration solution that would be amiable to all parties.
Maloney said yesterday's meeting would be the first, and he plans to continue talks with homeschool reps and the ISBE staff over the next few weeks to find a recommendation.
"It could be simply a guideline for truancy officers, or the ISBE may find we need legislation to protect homeschooled students," he said. " We'll determine what's best in the days ahead."