Sunday, May 15, 2005

Lowering Compulsory Attendance from age 7 to 5 could cost cash-strapped state millions

SB 409 was introduced in the Illinois Senate, zipped through until it hit the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. There it sits and hopefully will go away by the end of this week.

My kids and I took a field trip to Springfield to observe our legislators in action. We didn’t hear anything regarding SB 409 that day, but we saw many people filing in to the Capitol with t-shirts and banners for some type of rally. The t-shirts and banners displayed slogans about adult education and literacy.

Adult education programs are hugely important in many adults’ lives. Particularly with young adults who are climbing back up. I strongly support the adult education classes and I know the dedication of their instructors. But why do we need adult education? Why are these classes needed to help people become a self-sufficient, productive, and responsible member of our society?

How ironic that on the same day that a bill was to be heard in Committee making demands for more mandatory seat time for little children 2 years younger than the current requirement, Adult Education proponents were pursuing more funding with their rally. What's wrong with this picture? Plenty. If the public schools were serving these very people well from kindergarten up to 17 years of age, then there wouldn’t be this tremendous need for adult education classes. I’m glad the program is there for them. There is no rationale for children's sake, to increase compulsory attendance age mandates for younger or older ages. The people they hope to serve are obviously not being served well. Compulsory attendance laws don’t assure an education. Instead it only assures warm bodies and that is too high a price to pay to serve the complexities of a developing mind and body, notwithstanding public school successes.

In a federally-sponsored analysis of 8,000 early childhood studies, the Moore Foundation states that "From Piagetian specialist David Elkind in Boston to William Rohwer in Berkeley, Calif., top learning and development authorities warn that early formal school is burning out our children.

It can certainly be lucrative for the education industry. How could someone so fresh into the Senate (six months) be able to ride this bill through the Senate into the House reducing the compulsory attendance age not just one year but 2 years? Maybe it was the same type of ride that increased the compulsory attendance age to 17 years January 1st of this year. One can only look at the number of sponsors added onto this bill to see there is a definite agenda in support of the freshman Senator’s actions. Despite the individual good intentions, the general picture is this is rationally not "about the kids".

Senator Raoul and others have ignored hundreds and hundreds of calls and requests to withdraw this bill. One can only assume these are parents making all of these calls. And one can immediately see the regard given to these parents and constituents by legislators who rebuked them with the message that
I wish this bill lowered the compulsory attendance age down to 3

Senator Raoul's words should ring through all of our ears. Illinois is already overindulged with Big Brotherhood in the passage of the Illinois Children's Mental Health Act and the establishment of Social/Emotional *Learning* Standards for the children already within the 10 years of compulsory attendance age. Let's stop this invasive manipulation of our parental rights and children's lives. Today. Call and write NOW to protest SB 409.

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