Monday, February 21, 2011

IL: Home school bill tabled; fight continues

An Illinois bill that would have required home schooling families to register with the state Board of Education has been tabled -- but activists tell the fight is far from over. Curt Mercadante, chairman of the Illinois Homeschool PAC, said he remains extremely concerned that the idea will reappear in some form. The bill was tabled by Illinois state Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat, on Thursday following intense opposition.

"Nothing is ever dead in Springfield," Mercadante told "The goal is not to stop Senate Bill 136. The goal is to stop mandatory home schooling registration from ever being considered -- and to protect home schooling rights overall."

Mercadante said roughly 4,000 people flooded the Illinois capital building in Springfield on Tuesday for an initial hearing for the bill. Among other proposals, Mercadante said the possibility of mandatory home visits by state officials to home schooling families was considered.

"The effort of home schooling registration by the state is a government 'solution' for a problem that doesn't exist," he said. "Study after study shows that home-schoolers consistently outperform the rest of the country in basic skill sets."

Maloney, the bill's sponsor, said he will hold meetings during the first week of March to discuss his next move. If any new legislation pertaining to home schooling registration were to be introduced at a later date, it would be "under a different vehicle," he said. "It depends on the outcome of these discussions," he told on Friday.

Maloney and other registration advocates have said they're concerned some home-schooled children are not getting proper education.

Meanwhile, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HLDA), a Virginian legal advocacy group, applauded the tabling of the bill, declaring the development a victory. "This victory is for sharing among all of you who braved the cold and the long lines and came to Springfield, and the many others who made phone calls but could not attend personally," read a statement by Scott Woodruff, the group's senior counsel. "What you sacrificed in time, trouble and finance, has, I hope, been abundantly recompensed. Your prayers have been answered!"

According to state laws and HLDA officials, states vary widely in their requirements pertaining to home-schooled children. In states like Illinois, Texas, Michigan and Oklahoma, there are no current requirements for parents to initiate contact with state officials.
Other states such as Pennsylvania, New York and North Dakota have relatively high regulations, including requiring parents to submit test scores or allow home visits by state officials. No states, however, have a specific penalty for not registering home-schooled students with state officials.

Despite Thursday's apparent victory for home schooling advocates, Mercandante, who educates his two young children from his home in Morris, Ill., said he will continue the fight. "We are going to keep it up," he said. "They have opened a can of worms on this. We're continuing to work to get assurances from Maloney and the rest of the legislators that not only is SB 136 dead, but the entire issue of home schooling registration is also dead."


Christian Group Claims University Levied ‘Unconstitutional’ Fines on Pro-Life Students

This past week, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal group, sent a letter to administration officials at the University of Michigan contesting what it called “unconstitutional fees” assessed to a pro-life student group on campus.

An event held by U of M’s Students for Life chapter last fall hosted Dr. Alveda King, the pro-life niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event drew moderate protests from some students on campus and campus officials insisted the pro-life group have campus safety officers on-hand even though Students for Life believed such security was unnecessary.

Dr. King spoke to a crowd of about 250 students about why she’s changed her opinion on abortion over the years and about her role as a civil rights activist. Following the event, the university billed Students for Life more than $800 for the security personnel despite the group’s objections.

The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter Monday to university officials claiming such a charge is unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the government may not charge speakers for the security costs driven by listeners’ response to that speech,” the letter states.

Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, the letter continues, “‘Speech cannot be financially burdened, anymore than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.’ This mandate is based on the principle that ‘the government may not regulate speech based on its substantive content or the message it conveys.’ Thus, when the University charges a speaker for the security presence necessary to control a potentially hostile audience, it runs afoul of this constitutional command, because ‘listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.’”

“Pro-life student groups should not be singled out to pay fees that others do not have to pay. The type of fee assessed to Students for Life has been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional,” ADF Senior Counsel David French said. “A very basic and clear constitutional principle is that the government cannot place this sort of price tag on free speech simply because that speech might offend somebody.”

The Alliance Defense Fund is requesting that the university relieve the student group of the security costs immediately and clarify university policies to better reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, commented on the disputed charges. “The University of Michigan has placed a massive financial burden on the University of Michigan Students for Life group just because the decided to bring a national pro-life Leader to campus,” Hawkins told “school has no right to charge the students for security they mandated they have.”

“No other group on campus has had the administration step in and force them to have security at an event. If the school felt it was that important to have security for Dr. King, against the opinion of the SFL campus group, then they should pay for it, not the students,” she concluded. “It is unfair to place these sorts of undo burdens on SFL groups simply because they express an opinion unpopular with their administration.”


British schools told to go easy on disruptive gypsy children or face action under the Equality Act

Too bad about the other children who have their education ruined

Schools have been told they have to make special allowances for misbehaving pupils from gypsy and traveller families. Teachers have been warned they could be taken to task under the Equality Act if they discipline or exclude such children from schools.

Cash-strapped schools are even told they should launch an ‘outreach’ programme with a dedicated member of staff to ‘build trust’ with traveller families.

Under Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance, teachers are told to be sympathetic to traveller parents because they struggle with ‘confidence’ issues and are put off attending school meetings to discuss their children’s behaviour.

A guidance note said: ‘In cases where parents co-operate with the headteacher and are shown to be committed to assisting the pupil to manage their behaviour, it is less likely that the pupil will face exclusion. ‘This procedure may indirectly discriminate against the gypsy and traveller pupil whose parents may be less likely to come to the school to speak with the headteacher.’

Tory MP Priti Patel criticised the special treatment. She said: ‘I have concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission dictating to headteachers how to run their schools and burdening them with more bureaucracy. ‘There are times when schools do need to exclude pupils to protect the rights of others to learn and headteachers should not be put off making these decisions by the patronising diktats of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.’

She added: ‘The Commission’s recommendation on travellers only serves to reinforce stereotypes as well as showing that political correctness and the human rights agenda are being skewered further against common sense.’

Katharine Birbalsingh – who was fired as a deputy head after laying bare problems in the state school system – said: ‘The idea that certain groups should be protected from exclusion is nonsense. ‘How insulting is this guidance for gypsy and traveller children? It basically suggests that they will go on to be problem pupils.’

A spokesman for the Commission said the advice protected all children from discrimination. She added: ‘The requirements in Equality Act 2010 for schools to treat all pupils fairly are consistent with other legal obligations relating to exclusions.’


1 comment:

Michael Brady said...

Let me see: Teachers in GB are instructed to treat the children of gypsies differently in classes, all in the name of equality?

Inequality = equality?

Calling George Orwell!