More Information About Illinois HB 5067

One small solace of Illinois’s recent voucher-like scheme, a taxpayer handout to private schools, was that those schools would at least have to meet state educational standards. With HB 5067, Illinois lawmakers are working to take that away as well, giving public school funds to private religious schools with no strings attached.

House Bill 5067 exempts private religious schools from all state “educational requirements, standards, [and] demands.” It applies to all private school that are “engaged exclusively in religious education.” This is more sweeping than it sounds, because “religious education” includes “secular subjects so long as the education incorporates significant religious or faith-based instruction and is part of a comprehensive education program to equip the student to integrate his or her religion or faith in his or her career or work.”

In other words, the bill goes beyond removing oversight of seminaries, yeshivas and other schools designed to train clergy. It also offers a total exemption to religious schools that currently offer secular subjects, so long as they inject some religion into those classes. So in addition to taking away guarantees that students training to be clergy will receive a decent secular education, HB 5067 actually encourages other religious schools to dilute their secular subjects with more religious education.

Elsewhere in the country, similar exemptions have led to students who did not realize until they graduated high school that their religious education failed to prepare them for the workforce. In New York, for instance, Orthodox Jewish communities send their children to yeshivas that “provide robust instruction in Talmudic discourse and Jewish religious law, but not a word about history, geography, science, literature, art or most other subjects required by New York State law,” according to Shulem Deen, a graduate of one such school who recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times describing how difficult it was for him to function in the world after his school gave him no marketable skills. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation