As more states consider bills that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports, two writers recently drew lines in the sand on how far these should go.
Walt Gardner, author of Walt Gardner’s Reality Check opinion blog on edweek.org, published a post earlier today about his negative feelings toward the so-called “Tebow Laws,” named after New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a former homeschooled student.
I support parental choice of schools. However, once parents opt to home-school their children, they have made their decision clear. With that choice comes consequences. Public schools should not be cafeterias where parents can pick and choose only those parts they like. They have a hard enough time maintaining academic standards as things stand."
One of the main arguments against Tebow Laws, as Gardner alludes to, is that public schools would have a tough time proving that homeschooled students were held to the same academic standards as their students. State high school athletic associations often define eligible students as those taking a full schedule of classes—again, something that becomes difficult to prove with homeschooled students.
Supporters of Tebow Laws, on the other hand, would argue that their tax dollars earn their homeschooled kids the right to participate in public school sports.
Forbes writer Bob Cook also weighed in on Tebow Laws last week, initially taking a similar stance to Gardner.
“As parents, we all make choices in our children’s education, and sometimes those choices involve compromise,” Cook wrote.
But Cook isn’t entirely against homeschooled students’ participation in public school
sports. In fact, he’s got a plan to make their participation more fair to all.
The guts of my model Tim Tebow legislation would require homeschooling families to pay a fee for participation (the formula could be set in the bill) to make up for the state money the school is not receiving for the homeschoolers' attendance in classes. ... In a sport that has limited rosters, the family must pay the fee, but it should be refunded if the student does not make the team (homeschoolers and private-schoolers would not have guaranteed spots)."
Cook’s model would also give schools the right to review homeschooled students’ curricula (provided that their state/district isn’t already doing so), to ensure that the students are meeting the academic requirements established by the district and state high school athletic association.
For what it’s worth: Virginia’s Tebow bill, which was recently shot down by the state Senate, would have allowed schools to charge homeschooled students fees for participation. Keep in mind, some public schools are charging participation fees for their own students to keep sports programs afloat.
Given that somewhere around half of the U.S. states allow homeschooled students to participate in public school activities (with some caveats), this debate doesn’t look to be going away any time soon.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.