A new law is set to go into effect July 1 requiring all public schools in Tennessee to give home-schoolers the chance to try out for sports. That means a student who has never stepped foot on a school’s campus is eligible to compete for that school.
Playing sports without attending classes used to be frowned upon in public education. This new measure is a bit different, but not by much.
The law was sponsored by freshman state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, and requires public schools to allow home-schoolers to try out for athletic programs at local schools based on the 2011 Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association and Tennessee Middle Schools Athletic Association eligibility requirements for the process. It’s important to note that the Tennessee School Boards Association does not support this change to the law.
“The law changed from ‘may’ to ‘shall’ for this particular activity,” Hill told the NET News Service earlier this month.
There is no guarantee home-schoolers will make the squad, only that they will be given a fair shot at qualifying. Supporters say the change is only fair. They argue parents of home-schoolers are paying taxes for these services, so why shouldn’t their kids be given a chance to compete?
I certainly understand that there are many reasons some parents decide to home school their children. What I don’t understand, however, is why one of these parents would want their children to participate in the athletic programs of a school whose academic programs they have rejected.
As one critic of the law told me last week: “These parents want to have it both ways. They want to be apart from public schools while being a part of the public schools’ athletic programs.”
What about school spirit? Will home-schooled athletes be able to attend pep rallies at their adopted schools? Will home-schoolers also be allowed to join the cheerleading squad or the marching band at these schools?
And how can a home-schooled athlete become the proverbial “Big Man (or Woman) on Campus” when he is never seen on that campus?
As I mentioned earlier, supporters of this change say home-schoolers should be able to play sports at public schools because their parents pay taxes for those schools. Correct, but since the athletic programs are just a part of what those tax dollars fund for the local school system, what’s next?
A majority of the taxpayers in our community have no kids in the school system, yet it’s understood that our contributions to public education are part of the greater good.
On the other hand, home-school parents and their kids are not intimately involved in the schools they now wish to represent on the playing fields and gymnasiums. Parents of home-schoolers have not been members of the PTA, they haven’t raised money for school projects and they haven’t volunteered in the classroom. These are all activities that help build lasting bonds between parents, students and public schools.
This change in the athletic rules allows home-schoolers to skip all that hard work and go directly to the fun stuff. I think that’s unfair.
Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.