OKLAHOMA CITY – Two panhandle families last week urged lawmakers to allow home-school students to participate in sports, noting those families’ taxes already support those programs even as they save taxpayer money through their educational decisions.
|Rep. Gus Blackwell|
“If these families sent students to the local school, those kids would be allowed to participate in sports programs, so in reality there is no extra cost to granting home-school students access,” said state Rep. Gus Blackwell, a Laverne Republican who requested a legislative study on the issue. “By home-schooling, these families are freeing up tax dollars for educational uses and should not be discriminated against when it comes to participating in sports.”
Members of the Fischer and Arthaud families from the panhandle urged lawmakers to pass a “Tim Tebow” law named for the former University of Florida quarterback. As a child, Tebow was home-schooled, but under Florida law he was allowed to participate in sports activities at his local school. Tebow led the Neese High School to the 2005 state championship and later went on to earn a Heisman Trophy in college and played on two national championship teams.
Under Florida law, a home-school student is eligible to participate in sports at the public school he or she would be assigned if attending public school. Participating students must demonstrate educational progress by a method of evaluation agreed upon by the parents and the school principal, which can include review of the student’s work by a certified teacher chosen by the parent.
Under the proposed law, home-school students would be required to register their intent to participate in sports with the local school prior to the beginning date of the season.
Supporters noted that 24 other states allow some form of equal access for homeschoolers and that 325 home-schooled athletes played NCAA Division I-A sports in 2011.
“This legislation would allow home-school students to participate in sports while protecting their right to educational choice enshrined in the Oklahoma Constitution,” Blackwell said. “Furthermore, safeguards in the legislation would prevent abuses of the system, such as having schools cherry-pick athletes. This is a common-sense reform that deserves serious consideration in the coming legislative session.”
Blackwell said he plans to work with the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) and its member schools to come up with acceptable guidelines to keep the playing field equal for all participants.