Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Should homeschoolers be allowed to play public school sports?

You'd think Tim Tebow would have changed a lot of minds on this issue...but alas, here in my little corner of the world, the school board is voting this week on whether to allow it or not.

I attended the school board meeting both to show solidarity with other local homeschoolers and to get an education on how our school board feels about homeschoolers. Boy did I get educated!

Part of the problem stems from an 'us vs them' mentality. You cannot go into a meeting with the people who steward the local school system and imply that while you have nothing against public education, your choice to home educate somehow makes you better than them. We know that the statics bear it out...and any educator who thinks long and hard about how students with personal tutoring attention excel would have to concede that the *way* homeschoolers are educated (lots of personal attention and tutoring) would naturally be reflected in higher test scores. However, I believe the merits of educational choice should NOT have entered the argument yesterday.

Instead, the talking points should have centered around the principle of discrimination going on here. We pay taxes to support the local economy...our taxes go into all kinds of different community programs...the library, the roads, the parks and recreations system and the schools. Now granted, they (the schools) are not getting *extra* money because our children are not enrolled, but we are still paying for the facilities they use for school. It's also important to note that the school board is comprised of elected officials. I want my representative to be aware that even though they sit on the board for the public school system, the decisions they hand down have the potential to affect ALL students in their district. I believe votes were won and lost yesterday!!

The point that they get tax money from us, but they do not get *extra* enrollment money comes into focus here: The school system is already required to offer help, counseling or intervention programs for 'special needs' homeschoolers. Those kids are not enrolled either, yet the schools are already obligated to give them help if their parents ask for it. They are not getting extra funds from those kids, yet that program costs the school a LOT of time and money because we are talking about specific intervention speech therapy or intensive special needs on one student teacher time kind of programs.

This issue of sports is nothing like that program, it has the potential to bring in money because athletic and extra curricular programs are generally not in the budget... that's why there are fundraisers, booster clubs and parents paying out their nose for the kids to be involved. It doesn't cost them (the schools) any extra time...the program is established and extra man power or time investment will not be needed to accommodate homeschooled students. The arguments yesterday, while continually stating they were not arguing the merits of educational choice, boiled down to just that. "You've chosen to homeschool, so you don't get the benefit of the wider community education arena." I'm sorry, but that's just wrong.

As to the question of displacement, over and over it was said that if we enrolled our kids in school, they would welcome them. At that point displacement becomes a moot issue...if our child is talented enough to displace a current student, they would displace them whether homeschooled or not. That argument also stretched common sense when they suggested that an entire team might be composed of HS students there-by robbing PS students of the opportunity to participate. It's ludicrous to think that a coach or teacher (in an extracurricular activity) would select all HS students in any scenario...the last sob story yesterday of the student who 'needed' the 'connection' that choir offered her because of her home situation...a touching story to be sure, but the argument that those kinds of kids would miss out takes a caring teacher completely out of the equation and stretches common sense and personal touches in favor of proving a point on principle. Then there was the point about a student *outside* the school zone being on a sports team would be disruptive to school spirit, would make the student feel disconnected from the wider 'school' community and be a potential hindrance to the team since they wouldn't have a relationship with that student in the halls. This argument falls terribly flat when you consider that there are students from the neighboring county listed on our sports rosters here every year. Their county doesn't offer the same extracurricular sports activities we do, so they are allowed to participate. How is that any different from homeschoolers participating?? Pure hypocrisy at it's finest.

The other concern they mentioned over and over was the question of accountability. How can they trust that parents are actually doing their job? It's as if they have never heard of standardized testing or portfolio review. While we don't have a legal requirement for portfolio review here in TN, I think most families willing to pursue this option would welcome a review of the coursework their child is doing as long as the school district didn't make the review taxing, burdensome or impose some extra onerous restrictions on what the student should be doing or learning in order to participate. A quick review of the TSSAA policy suggests that there are already standards in place and the school board simply needs to recognize and comply with them in order to allow homeschoolers to play. No need to re-invent the wheel here, just follow what's already been thought through and laid out.

Based on the tone of the room yesterday, they will probably vote against it. And while it will be sad to lose this local battle, I don't think it will be long until it will be mandated and legislated in Nashville...and then the school board will have to comply. Both city (who is completely against the idea right now) and county schools will have to open their doors and welcome homeschoolers no matter how they really feel.


Michelle said...

It would be so nice to see our county be a leader in this frustrating! Also the speech arguement that is costs them $$ to provide this service--I would argue that point....our speech teacher is on staff and paid her salary--if she sees my child or not.....

Phyllis@Aimless Conversation said...

Hey~ my point that it cost them to offer services to 'special needs' kids was not to say that it literally cost them extra $$, but rather to show that the school district is already accommodating those kids in that program without the benefit of the extra tax dollars they would receive if the child were enrolled. Treating homeschooled kids for speech or learning challenges is far more time-consuming to the staff and teachers than simply allowing a homeschooled child to join an already established sports program. In that respect, this is a simply rule change, which they have done in other areas regarding access to public school resources for homeschool families.