Monday, April 04, 2005

Homeschoolers want a chance to play

on public school sports teams in Tennessee.

Families who don't want their children attending public schools do want them to be able to play on public school sports teams.The Tennessee Home Education Association is backing legislation that would allow students who are taught at home — and those in small private schools — to play high school sports and participate in such extracurricular activities as art, drama and music in public schools.
I have mixed feelings on this. I understand the schools perspective but I also can relate to the frustration of paying taxes without any ability to participate. Here's the homeschool argument:

"It's about equal access,'' said Mike Bell, a THEA lobbyist who teaches his kids at home. ''This is about giving all Tennessee children equal access to publicly funded facilities and activities.''

Supporters argue that home-school families pay taxes to support public schools but don't get to take advantage of the activities they offer. They say that while some parts of the state offer home-school sports and clubs, those students often don't get to play tougher teams or get the public exposure that leads to college scholarships and other opportunities. Plus, they say public schools could benefit from putting together teams from a larger pool of talented players

Here's the opposing argument:

''We're opposed to it,'' said Ronnie Carter, executive director of TSSAA. ''Our schools feel that the students representing them'' in sports ''should be enrolled and regularly attending"

Opponents point out that families voluntarily choose to take their children out of public schools and away from those opportunities. They argue that opening up public schools' sports teams and other activities to students who don't attend those schools creates some headaches and will make eligibility requirements — such as minimum academic and behavior rules — tougher to verify.

My feeling is that this is about money for both sides.

Parents can't afford the quality of equipment and coaching that is required to field a high caliber team. They pay tax dollars and they feel they should be able to benefit in these area.

If the school district allows children to participate in sports who are homeschooled they will lose students not gain them. Many parents tolerate the education for the extra curricular opportunities. Sad but true. I think the ones that feel dissatisfied with the education will pull their children out and still let them participate in sports. I know many former homeschoolers who fit into this category who have put their children in PS for the extras and then supplement with curriculum on their own. They would love to eliminate the time waste of having them in the schools.If they can have them both many will take advantage. Thus, the schools lose enrollment which is a loss of dollars.

Tracking is also a concern for both sides. Public schools have academics standards that they would want to verify and many homeschoolers see that as an infringement on their privacy and right to educate.

''The concern in the home-school community is that they'll have to submit to some oversight,'' said Kay Brooks, founder of a home-school information clearinghouse and network in Tennessee. ''That's the big Mack truck hole — what are the eligibility requirements.''
But I understand the public schools need to have verfiable academic standards for the team as well.

I guess I am struggling on this issue. Right now, the public schools hold all the cards because they hold the money. If homeschoolers didn't have to pay taxes to a system we don't use then the funds would be available to do sports, etc. But that is a utopian ideal that will probably never be seen in my lifetime.

But is an ala carte system possible where you pay if you play be possible? That way all sports is optional and out of the budget and if a school wants to field a team they do so without the assistance of tax money? I would love feedback on this. Any thoughts?

Update: I came across this article today about a school district in Oregon that is trying persuade homeschoolers to join for monetary reasons. This seems to make my point that money is a central issue. Here's the quote from the district:
Because Oregon bases its state school funding on enrollment numbers, every homeschooled child that Myrtle Point can woo means an extra $5,000 or so for the school's bottom line. The district estimates that about 100 children living in the district are homeschooled, which could bring in up to $500,000.

If that's true in my district our family represents $25,000 in lost revenue. As my dear dad always says, "Follow the money."


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