Sunday, February 12, 2012

Should Home School Children Have the Right to Participate in Regular School Activities?

A Good Question, With Not Many Good Answers

One purpose of home schooling a child is to remove the child from the influences of the public school system.  Parents who feel for some reason that the public school system in their district is the wrong place for their children can take them out of school and school them at home, providing of course they will provide the child with a basic education.  Although The Dismal Political Economist does not think many parents are capable of educating their children, he does agree that they have the right to try and do so.

Of course attendance at public schools is more than just sitting in class.  A good public school has all sorts of additional activities for the students.  There is band, and arts and theater and most of all, athletics.  So some parents want their home schooled children to be able to participate in those activities, even if they do not attend the school where the activities are provided.

The state of Virginia is currently debating this issue,

A hotly contested bill that passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday would change that, permitting home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public high schools. 

and there are good arguments on both sides.

Next fall, Patrick, 17, would like to try out as a kicker on the football team at Freedom High School in South Riding, Va., but he is home-schooled and thus ineligible.

“My parents pay the same exact taxes as my next-door neighbor who plays varsity sports,” he said. “I just want to be part of the community. You shouldn’t have to pick between athletics and academics.”

On the negative side there is this

Opponents of the bill argue that playing varsity sports is a privilege surrendered when students opt out of the public school system; that home-schoolers might take roster spots from public school students; and that it would be extremely difficult to apply the same academic, attendance and discipline requirements to home-schooled students as to those who are monitored daily in public schools.

To maintain varsity eligibility, for instance, Virginia’s public school students must take five courses in the current semester and must have passed five in the previous semester. Home-schooled students do not have to adhere to that standard.

And while there is some Democrat/Republican divide on the issue, professional educators are generally opposed.

The bill faces opposition from such groups as the Virginia Association of School Superintendents; the Virginia Education Association, which represents 55,000 teachers; and the Virginia High School League, the governing body for public school sports.

“There are thousands of public school students whose parents pay taxes and who attend public schools and don’t meet the eligibility requirements; they don’t get to compete in sports,” said Ken Tilley, executive director of the Virginia High School League.

Referring to home-schooled students, he added: “Others don’t meet regulations and requirements, and they’re going to get to compete? That doesn’t make sense.”

Of course, it may turn out that the issue is not all that important.

Officials in Florida, Louisiana and Pennsylvania said the controversy largely disappeared there after home-schooled students began playing varsity sports, partly because the number of participants was relatively small — 42 in Louisiana, for example.

There does seem to be a good solution to the issue, local determination.  Government functions best when decisions can be made at the level of government closest to the citizenry.

Still, the Virginia bill has gained traction this year after a series of failures. To discourage recruiting, the legislation would require that home-schooled athletes live in their public school districts, Mr. Bell said. They also must have been home-schooled for at least two years to gain eligibility, he said. Local school districts would also be allowed to set their own participation rules, which could limit or prohibit home-schooled athletes, he said.

That’s right, let the people in the local school district decide whether or not they want to allow home schoolers to participate in any school activity for that district.

There, that’s not so hard, is it.

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