June 16, 2005

Against All Odds

Illinois homeschoolers tirelessly fought and won a crucial battle even though the odds were stacked against them.

Senator Kwame Raoul, made his liberal agenda a priority due to the fact that the democrats had finally gained control over the House and Senate for the first time in many years.

Senator Raoul, with strong support from the National Education Association, introduced a bill to lower the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 5. But this was only the beginning for Senator Raoul, who publicly stated at the hearing, "I want to lower the compulsory attendance age down to 3!" Senator Raoul put the bill on the "fast track" and expected overwhelming support. But he underestimated the opposition from homeschoolers.

HSLDA worked closely with Ralph Garcia, President of the Christian Home Educators Coalition of Illinois, to oppose the bill. Hundreds of calls poured into the Senate committee to demonstrate the strong opposition to the bill. As a result, Senator Raoul proposed a compromise that would allow homeschools to be exempt since they are considered private schools in Illinois.

Ralph Garcia and HSLDA Attorney, Chris Klicka both agreed to stay committed to defeating the bill entirely, even though it would be an uphill battle. The bill subsequently passed the Senate. Garcia and Klicka focused their efforts on the next target: the House Education Committee. Homeschoolers in Illinois responded to several HSLDA e-lerts and flooded the committee with calls opposing the bill.

The arguments homeschoolers made against lowering the compulsory attendance age were mainly twofold: 1) it restricted parents' right to choose when their children were ready to go to school; and 2) it would cost the state millions of dollars. As a direct result of these arguments and hundreds of calls, the hearing was postponed over four times!

At the 11th hour, when the opportunity for bills to be heard was about to end, the bill was brought up for a vote. However, homeschoolers had successfully demonstrated their opposition and the bill did not pass!

This victory is very significant since this bill was essentially guaranteed passage. Once again homeschoolers have proved that they care about freedom and will not take "no" for an answer.

The bill could be resurrected in a special session, so we will continue to monitor the legislature very closely.

Thank you for your calls, they made the difference in Illinois.