The legality of homeschooling today rests on People v. Levisen (1950). In that decision, the Supreme Court of Illinois overturned the conviction of a Seventh Day Adventist couple who had begun homeschooling their child because of their religious convictions. The court stated that homeschools should be allowed to operate as private schools, provided they followed the state’s requirements for such schools (i.e., providing instruction in the same branches of education taught to public school children of the corresponding age and grade). The court defined a private school as “a place where instruction is imparted to the young” and argued that “the number of persons being taught does not determine whether a place in a school.” The court also stated that “the law is not made to punish those who provide their children with instruction equal or superior to that obtainable in the public schools. It is made for the parent who fails or refuses to properly educate his child.”
This foundational case was both reaffirmed and clarified in Scoma v. Chicago Board of Education (1974). In that case, a homeschooling couple argued that the state compulsory education law was being applied to them in an unconstitutional manner. The court upheld People v. Levisen, stated that homeschool parents must provide a plan of instruction that is equivalent to the standards set for public schools, and clarified that when it came to establishing whether or not a plan of instruction that met these requirements was being carried out, the burden of proof rested with the homeschool parents.
From time to time, Illinois legislatures and education officials have proposed laws to create more thorough oversight of homeschooling in the state. In 1998, Illinois State Representative Ricca Slone proposed HB 3344, legislation that would have created a homeschool option to replace homeschools’ current status as private schools. This option would have included assessments using testing and portfolios and the submission of health information including records of vaccines. As a result of homeschool opposition, the bill never passed. In February of 2011, Illinois State Senator Edward Maloney filed SB 136, which would have required homeschool parents to annually register their children with the State Board of Education. He expressed concerns about children being removed from school but not educated, and argued that requiring homeschool parents to register their children would help ensure that children do not fall through the cracks. The state’s homeschool lobby opposed the bill as a threat to homeschooling, and as a result, Maloney tabled the bill. So far, such attempts to create protections for homeschooled students have met with failure.
For more state histories, see Histories of Homeschooling.
For more on homeschooling in Illinois, see Illinois.