November 13, 2008

House Bill 871: Allows Homeschoolers Access to Extracurricular Activities

Representative Cameron Henry

House Bill 871 will be heard in the House Education Committee on April 10. This bill would allow students enrolled in a home study program approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to participate in interscholastic extracurricular activities at their local public school.

Under H.B. 871, in order for a student to participate in these extracurricular activities, they would be required to meet all standards and requirements, including academic standards, applicable to a public school student participating in the activity. A home study student would only be able to participate in the local public school they would attend if they were enrolled in the public school, and they would have to obtain the approval of the principal of that school to participate.

3/21/2008Introduced and referred to Education Committee
3/31/2008Read in Education Committee
4/10/2008Did not pass out of Committee

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA is neutral on H.B. 871.

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time.

Over a dozen states currently require public schools to allow homeschoolers access to classes or sports. These include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington. In both Arizona and Oregon, the law only requires school districts to allow access to “interscholastic” activities. Yet the effect of the laws in these two states generally allows homeschoolers to participate in any activities they choose.

Despite these laws, equal access to homeschoolers is not offered without some strings attached. Although specific requirements vary from state to state, homeschool students can typically participate in public school programs only if certain requirements are met. First, the student must be in compliance with the state homeschool law. Second, the student must meet the same eligibility requirements as a public school student. Finally, the state requires the student to verify that he or she is passing his or her core subjects. Consequently, the homeschooler may be required to provide achievement test scores or periodic academic reports, even if the state’s homeschool statute does not otherwise require them.

Do parents have the right to choose the amount of public education their children receive? Although the courts have said “no,” the state legislatures are beginning to say “yes.” Courts do not find any “right” for homeschoolers to receive access to government funded educational services. State legislators, however, seem open to allowing homeschoolers the privilege of access to public school activities.

Part of the reason for this trend is financial. School districts in some areas are beginning to feel a decrease in funds due to the increasing number of students leaving public schools for private and home education. Schools may try to compete with private education by luring those students back with sports and academic classes, in order to regain at least partial funding for those students.

The access trend is not without potential hazards. Access supporters must remember to guard the right of parents to remain free from extraneous government regulation when they receive no government services. Despite both legal and political controversies, opening access to homeschoolers appears to be a growing trend.For more information on equal access, please see our memorandum on “Participation of Homeschooled Students in Public School Activities.”

 Other Resources

E-lert—April 9, 2008—Louisiana: Bill to Allow Participation in Public School Extracurricular Activities

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)