SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, February 17, 2011 ( – An estimated 4,000 concerned homeschooling parents and advocates crowded the Illinois state Senate building on Tuesday to protest a bill that would require homeschoolers to register annually with the school board. 

Senator Ed Maloney, the bill’s sponsor, reportedly announced that he had decided not to pursue the bill immediately.  Maloney said the bill “has had consequences that were beyond what I had intended” and that he will consult with homeschooling groups before taking up the bill again or perhaps revising it.

Last week Maloney had said about the bill: “What we want to know is where the homeschoolers are.  It’s as simple as that.”

While Maloney claimed the bill would merely require parents to register their children, the Home School Legal Defence Association has called the bill “the greatest threat to Illinois homeschoolers in more than a decade.”  HSLDA said the bill “would give the Illinois Department of Education literally unlimited power to dictate what information homeschoolers must submit.”

The Senate did not vote at the Tuesday hearing.  However, HSLDA reported that senators were closely divided on the issue.  “The change of a single vote could have dramatic consequences,” said Scott Woodruff of HSLDA Senior Counsel.

HSLDA has said homeschoolers must continue to pressure lawmakers to withdrawn the bill completely.  “There is no way to amend his bill to transform it into a good bill. Its objective is to push government control into your living room and kitchen, and that is unacceptable no matter how he may amend it,” said Woodruff.  “The efforts of every single homeschool family in the state are urgently needed.”

“The great majority of parents do an exemplary job of educating their children,” Maloney reportedly assured those at the hearing.  However, he said, the Senate is concerned with those who presumably “fall through the cracks”.

“I would love for Sen. Maloney to understand that this is a hot potato and to leave well-enough alone,” said David Smith of the Illinois Family Institute. “Don’t fix what’s not broken.”

Security estimated 4,000 attended the hearing from Illinois and surrounding areas.  The sound of the crowd singing “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” “Amazing Grace,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” could be heard through the open doors of the committee hearing room.  Many homeschooling parents and advocates testified ardently against the bill.

“No one present will ever forget the huge, orderly, but passionate crowd, the singing, and the sense that their presence made a powerful statement in defense of liberty. No Illinois senator or representative will forget that statement,” said Woodruff.

HSLDA is advising homeschoolers to call their senators and ask them to advise Senator Maloney to withdraw, not amend, SB 136.  For senator information click here.