Transcript: State Senator Edward Maloney joins Cisco Cotto on WLS-AM 890

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Thanks to Naomi Ventura Young for this transcript.

Transcript: State Senator Edward Maloney joins Cisco Cotto on WLS-AM 890

2/14/11 – 9 minutes 35 seconds

CC: Right now, there is a bill that is pending before the Illinois State Senate that would require homeschoolers to register with the State Board of Education. There’s been some outrage on the part of homeschooling parents. They don’t like it, they think that it’s burdensome, they think that the system is just fine and so there’s no reason to change this. But State Senator Ed Maloney thinks that the state does need some oversight in this area and so he’s the one who’s proposed the legislation and he’s joining us now here on WLS. Senator, thanks for joining us.

EM: Good morning.

CC: So tell us, first off, what it is that you’re proposing for this registration program.

EM: Well, first of all, we’re going to have a subject matter hearing only on this issue either tomorrow or Wednesday because I have agreed with the homeschoolers to withhold the bill pending the discussion in front of the education committee. But my goal would be minimally to have homeschoolers at least register with their local school district or with the state board of education.

DD: Because right now, they don’t have to do that.

EM: That’s correct. We’re one of only a handful of states who has no regulations relative to the registration. Some states require registration with local school districts; some states require periodic standardized testing to assess progress of homeschoolers; some states require…have a curriculum that homeschoolers have to follow; and some states even have to have where the parents have to be certified or trained. So it runs that range from virtually no oversight to what I just explained…

DD: …that some of the other states have. So why make a change here in Illinois? I mean, is there something broken? Has there been some problem that’s…

EM: …well, no. Since we’ve proposed this, we’ve had a lot of anecdotal evidence, specifically coming from one regional office of education, a couple of people who are involved in truancy issues, indicating…I should preface this by saying I think, after my conversation with the homeschooling community, I think by and large, they do a very, very good job. But I don’t think anybody can attest to the fact that everybody is doing an outstanding job in this area and I think you do a disservice to kids if they are, in fact, not being homeschooled and are being…are staying home under other circumstances.

CC: So you mean what you’re trying to prevent is parents who just don’t send their kids to school and don’t educate them or anything and you want to keep track of them. I mean, don’t truant officers keep track of kids who aren’t showing up in school until they find out they’re homeschooled?

EM: Basically, the school district has no right to investigate anybody who says they are homeschooling their children.

CC: Well, wait, now I thought that if a school district thought that kids weren’t learning what they were supposed to learn, they had the right to investigate.

EM: Yeah and if the parents say, “We’re homeschooling them,” then that’s the end of it.

CC: Oh no, see I thought…in fact this, I think, was on the board of education, the state board of education webpage. If the school district, if the administrator believes that that child is not learning what he or she is supposed to learn, they have the right to step in regardless of whether they are homeschooled or not.

EM: That’s not the assessment I got from the homeschool people.

CC: Okay.

EM: In fact, they feared that exact interference. They say that if we have to register then we will be bothered by the local school districts and I’m saying well right now, they can’t do that. And so, again, I think…I don’t think this is a big intrusion. I think that in order to protect the integrity of the system, I would think that those conscientious homeschoolers would want…would not want those people who are not doing this in a conscientious manner associated with them.

CC: But see, I think, here’s why…there are two reasons, I think, that people may have a problem with it. One, the fact that, I mean you talk about “anecdotal evidence” that has come out since you brought up the bill but it seemed like there was a solution in search of a problem initially. I mean you propose this and I’m not sure why, but it wasn’t because of all of these issues with homeschooled kids not getting the proper education. There are some stories that may have come out after that but you don’t hear…homeschooling’s been going on for decades in the state of Illinois and we haven’t heard any sort of widespread problems, so I think they have a problem with that. The other issue is the fact that I think parents, by and large, go, “If we’re taking responsibility for our kids’ education, ultimately, we the parents are responsible for the kids’ education and not the state of Illinois.” You know, so the state of Illinois, almost by default, has to educate some children but in other situations, these parents say, “No, we’re the mom and dad and we want to take care of this.”

EM: Yeah, I understand that but at the same time, there are…I think the state of Illinois is responsible for its citizens and if we have run into situations where the children are not being…where the parents are not being responsible in handling their child’s education, then we have to deal with it. And so again, I don’t think this is a big intrusion, to simply say, “We’re homeschooling our child.”

CC: But it’s unnecessary. See, people…because they hear this, not from you necessarily, but from politicians all the time, “Well we’re doing this and it’s no big deal,” even though, so far, the system seems to be working just fine and no one’s complaining about it. But all of a sudden, someone steps in and says, “I think we need to change this because the state wants to make sure that things are going right,” thereby making the state more important in the education of a child than the parent in the education of a child.

EM: Well, I don’t agree with that assessment.

CC: Well, I’m telling you, that’s how I…my children are not even school-age but when I first heard this, that’s what crossed my mind. Is the state of Illinois being…so you’re saying the state is more responsible for education that the individual parent.

EM: Well I’m saying the state ultimately is responsible for its citizens so if we have problems later on with these children who haven’t been educated in the proper manner then the state ends up dealing with them.

CC: Do you have that? ‘Cause homeschooling’s been going on for a long time. So do you have a bunch of ne’er-do-wells who were homeschooled kids?

EM: Well, I don’t know that.

CC: Well, see, but that’s my point, Senator. There’s a difference if someone comes to you and goes, “Lookit, we’ve got all these thousands of kids that can’t read and write and they’re in and out of jail and they’re having a horrible time and it’s because they were homeschooled.” Instead, those are the kids who come out of the public schools! And there’s no one who’s sitting here saying we need to actually fix the public schools or at least doing something substantive to do it. If there was a problem that you could diagnose, then maybe the homeschool parents would go, “Oh well, we get it, we want to make sure that those things are taken care of.”

EM: Well I’m saying…because…we don’t know what the problem is. I mean, we don’t know and I think that there are some issues here that…and there are some instances that should be looked into. I mean we…I mean I think that in this state, I’m not even positive, but you know in terms of regulations…I would hope that, again, the homeschool community would be kind of self-policing in this. We…have laws that the majority of people follow. I mean when we have driver’s licensing laws, okay, but at the same time, I can’t guarantee you that 100% of the people out on the roadway have valid driver’s licenses. I’m just saying that I think that I don’t see the intrusion of saying if you’re homeschooling, simply to let the local school district know.

CC: The burden isn’t on the intrusion. That’s not where the burden is. The burden should be on the state of Illinois to show that there is a problem that needs to be solved and that’s why it has an interest in this.

EM: Well I think there will be evidence at this hearing that there may be some problems. They may not be widespread but there may be some problems.

CC: One other thing I want to ask you, because I went through your bill that you’re proposing and it looks to me as though this would apply not only to homeschool kids but also to any parent who sends their child to a non-public school.

EM: No, no that’s why we withdrew that bill, because that went further than…the problem is that I understand in statute, homeschoolers and private school students are…the same definition covers both so that’s why I withdrew that bill and…told the homeschool people that I would not advance that legislation and that’s why we agreed to have this subject matter hearing only before any legislation is proposed.

CC: All right, I’m gonna ask you this. The teacher’s unions…are they at all talking with you about this, is this something that they want?

EM: That’s not…I have not

CC: Are they donors at all to you?

EM: No, no. I have not discussed this issue with any teacher’s union at all.

CC: All right. State Senator Ed Maloney, appreciate you talking with us here on WLS.

EM: Thank you.

CC: His bill..the one I got online apparently is not going to be the final bill. He says that he’s making some changes because the language in this bill would make it apply to all…well anyone who sends their kid to a private school, religious or otherwise so he’s changing it so that it’s just homeschoolers. What do you think? Is that the threshold, is the threshold intrusion? Whether or not something is intrusive? To make you register – is that the threshold or should the state of Illinois say we have all of these kids who are incapable of basic skills: reading, writing, math, all of this. And so the state has to step in because these homeschoolers just aren’t getting it done. Shouldn’t that be the threshold? And if there’s no problem, if the homeschool kids are doing just fine, then why in the world do we need to have the parents register with the state of Illinois so the state can keep tabs on you.

Attend the Illinois Christian Home Educators Freedom Summit tomorrow in Springfield.