July 14, 2009

House Bill 531: Allows Homeschool Children Access to Extracurricular Activities

Representative Cameron Henry

House Bill 531 has been introduced which would allow children in home study programs to participate in public school sports. Activities that these homeschool children would have access to would include sports, cheerleading, music, band, school clubs and other programs.

While this bill broadens the scope of equal opportunities for children in home study program in interscholastic activities, accessing the program will come with additional requirements. These include providing a copy of the student’s transcript showing the units of study completed or in progress, the grades earned for such study and the student’s cumulative grade point average.

4/27/2009(House) Read under the Rules Committee sent to Committee on Education
5/15/2009(House) Referred to Committee on Education
5/27/2009(House) Passed out of Education Committee 7 to 6
6/25/2009Legislative session ended Sine Die

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA is neutral on H.B. 531.

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time.

Eighteen 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, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. 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.

The issue of equal access is being debated even among the homeschooling community. Many homeschoolers oppose equal access, because they are against any government involvement in education. Others assert it is unfair to keep homeschoolers out of public school programs when their taxes help pay for these programs. Below is a summary of the most common arguments, both pro and con, from homeschoolers.

Homeschool families are members of the community and pay the same taxes as families who send their children to public schools. These taxes fund public schools, too, whether homeschoolers elect to use them or not. It is unacceptable to exclude homeschool students from other public institutions such as libraries, hospitals or parks. Likewise, it should be unacceptable to keep them out of public school programs.

Allowing homeschoolers access to public school activities will increase the numbers of children home educated. There are many parents across the country who do not homeschool their children because they or their children want access to a specific program available only at public schools.

A student is a student whether he attends a public school, private school, or homeschool. Specific economic and career advantages are available to public school students. A homeschool student should not be denied the opportunity to take part in these advantages if he or she meets the qualifications. Homeschoolers participating in classes will not cause the increase in taxes that some claim. In states that have access laws it is estimated that only 3 to 5 percent of homeschoolers actually take advantage of public school services.

Parents should be allowed to choose selected public school activities if it is what they think is best for their own children.

We should not trade our freedom for services. Government services never come without strings attached. Because we’ve been fighting so long to get away from the government, it is illogical to go back to government handouts.

If states begin mandating that school districts open their doors to homeschoolers who want access, school officials and legislators will want to define and regulate all homeschoolers.

Paying taxes which support government programs does not automatically give someone the right to participate in that program. Adults who have no children, but own property, pay the same taxes as property owners who do have children.

Individuals who receive the services will become more and more dependent on the government and more likely to accept new regulation limiting their freedom.

What ultimately happens when any individual goes to the government for services that the private sector can better perform, is that the government sector chokes out private enterprise and individual initiative. Private alternatives for homeschoolers will be less likely to arise if the government allows access.

For the HSLDA issue analysis on the participation of homeschooled students in public school activates visit our issues library.

 Other Resources

HSLDA resources

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History