Sports and Homeschoolers

Taber Spani- Photo Credit Ben Ozburn

Watching the legislative trends involving homeschoolers the last few years, one issue has grown into a well known name of its own – the Tim Tebow Bill.  It’s hard to resist –  that love of competitive sports and physical activity.  Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, took advantage of the 1996 Florida law allowing school-age homeschoolers to participate in the public school extra-curricular activities.  He went on to help his University of Florida team win two national football championships, then moved on to professional football.  Of course, girls have taken part too, including collegiate basketball star – University of Tennessee senior, Taber Spani.
Traditionally, homeschoolers have always found an inventive way for their children to participate and learn in their communities. Park district activities, academic activities, museums and play days turning into fairs and co-ops. One day, a few years back, my four kids (10 years and under) and I  enjoyed a planetarium program with a senior citizen group.  You work with what you have and appreciate the unexpected benefits.

Specifically, homeschool sports leagues have grown into multi-state endeavors culminating in national championships, such as the National Soccer Championship in Fort Wayne, and the recent tournament in  Springfield, Missouri bringing in thousands of families.

The Oklahoman covered Spani’s recent activities.
Oklahoma City Women’s Regional: Taber Spani returns to Oklahoma City By Jason Kersey

When Spani played for Metro Academy — a Missouri homeschool team — she visited Oklahoma City four straight years for the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships, winning one title.

“Oklahoma City’s a great city,” Spani said. “I love it and I really appreciate all the hospitality. I just have some great memories here, and hopefully I’ll make some more.”

Even so, there is still a desire for some homeschoolers to participate in public school activities with their neighbors and other community members. It appears states requiring homeschooling notification or registration aren’t losing much if homeschoolers try to jump into the public school activities. But Illinois, Texas and the other states that don’t notify and aren’t required to register have a whole different ‘ballgame’ with public school activities. For instance, many IL homeschoolers have fought hard to keep “home school” out of legislative language. But it keeps creeping into local and state policy. One example is the IL Education Tax Credit, as cautioned by Larry and Susan Kaseman’s Taking Charge column.

After that review, let’s look at current legislation regarding this issue. Education Week offers a synopsis of the “Tebow Bill” trend in the United States.That article covered Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, while also reviewing Virginia’s failed “Tebow Bill”.  Alabama also has a current “Tebow Bill”.  [Update – Arkansas does too. The bill HB 1789-“An Act to allow home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic activities; and for other purposes”] passed out of the House Education Committee on 4/9.

Knoxville’s WBIR addressed the Tennessee legislation waiting for the Governor Haslam’s signature.
Legislation opens public school sports to homeschool students By Jim Matheny

TSSAA currently allows individual public school boards to decide whether or not to permit homeschool students to participate in athletics. Alcoa City Schools is among the districts that does not permit home-schooled students to play ball.

“The school board’s decision was that no one outside Alcoa City Schools is allowed to play athletics here,” said Josh Stephens, Alcoa High School athletic director.

The interviewed homeschoolers in the above article play for a homeschool sports team and plan to continue that, along with the public school sports participation.  The Chattanooga Times Free Press article below points out the lack of opportunities for other homeschoolers.  But the question of this movement heading towards public schools with their rules and iron grip, rather than building up private school prospects, alarms some.

Andrew Rollins a home-schooled Hixson Wildcat By Ward Gossett

Rollins, who has eight siblings, wants to follow in the footsteps of four elder brothers who went from home-school athletic teams to play at Covenant, Tennessee Temple or Chattanooga State.

His options, though, were limited. The Chattanooga Patriots, the area’s home school program, is struggling with numbers.

The fallout from the local school administrators has begun.  They have concerns about their ‘territory’ being infringed.  From the Texas Brownwood Bulletin:
Senate panel approves UIL homeschool measure By Steve Nash

Bangs Superintendent Bill Foster said he’s against the idea because “we’ve got to have a level playing field. We’ve got our set standards.” Foster said he’d want to know how to make sure home schools and private schools follow the standards.

Blanket Superintendent Kevy Allred said he, too, opposes the idea, saying “these kids have the opportunity to go to public school just like anyone else.”
It would have to be determined whether homeschoolers are meeting eligibility requirements, and, Allred said, he understands the parents “who will make the call.”

With the public schools’ educational record, following their standards isn’t particularly appealing, but homeschoolers are sure to at least meet their standards. Another Texas superintendent had less worries. In past years, he had been involved with Kansas schools.  From the Brownwood Bulletin:

For Brookesmith Superintendent Dr. Jay Smith, it’s not an issue. Smith said he worked in public education in Kansas for 10 years, where homeschooled students participated in traditional school activities.

“There was never a problem with it for us,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have any issues with it all. I’ve been down that road already.”
“If you don’t allow them (to participate), aren’t you in some way saying they’re a second class student who can’t come in and participate in your school?”

But Kansas homeschoolers must register.  Texas homeschoolers do not register with the state agency or local public school district.  It’s a card the public schools can hold against a homeschooler to ask for registration.  They will play that card when they can, particularly when there are blurry lines.
From the WBIR article:

“The hard part about home-schoolers and allowing them to play is the fact that our athletes, if they don’t attend school that day they don’t play.  So with that home-school student, how are you going to mandate that?  Things also get complicated in terms of grades.  Some home-school kids might have academic requirements that are extremely tough, but others might not.  Our kids, we know if they are getting an F or if they are not carrying themselves the right way,” said Stephens.

How will those details be determined as satisfactory to a public school?  I pointed out the use of standardized tests in Illinois for those homeschoolers participating in public school activities.  Ironically, the last few years illustrate the failure of standardized test focus in the public schools in terms of corruption and worse, loss of learning opportunities.

The Amarillo Globe-News posted an interesting article about Texas modern homeschool history and the current legislation in play, including the “Tebow Bill”.  The spotlight was on the Texas Home School Coalition in that article and the Coalition’s push to pass a controversial “Tebow Bill”. To THSC’s credit, they are sponsoring a Town Hall Meeting tonight to address the concerns.

Texas Home School Coalition if hosting a Town Hall Meeting for Your Tebow Bill Concerns

Occasionally, a home schooler comes to us concerned about the Tebow Bill, the bill that would allow home schoolers to participate in UIL activities. “Will government start to regulate home schoolers because of this bill?” they ask. Others are just curious and want to know how their home schooled students would participate in public school sports and other extracurricular activities.

If you, too, have questions or concerns, you are invited to share them with Tim Lambert during this Online Town Hall Meeting.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 8.

The trend continues, as does the discussion. Hopefully, the pros and cons of the “Tebow Bill” will be laid out in a careful, thoughtful way with all involved parties laying out their concerns.

Cross-posted at Home Education Magazine News & Commentary


Sports and Homeschoolers — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Susan!

    A little off-topic, but one of my public-school mom friends told me about InBloom, a company that sets up a database of personal info on public school kids? I didn’t believe her until I found these websites. Do you know if this is legit?

    Thanks for your help! I’ve been on the IL Homeschool Watch list for a long time, and I appreciate your attentiveness to what’s going on in our state!


  2. Hi Michelle, Thank you.
    This data tracking seems to be a very legit concern. InBloom is a Bill Gates Foundation funded project and the fella seems to have a lot of $$/power influencing our state and federal policies.
    I haven’t dug into this much. But other homeschoolers sure have. (Our state legislators seem to be too busy with all their bills.) Spunky (Karen Braun in MI) has really researched this issue and an IL homeschooler started up a FB page spelling out a lot of these issues. There is also an IL petition against Common Core and a blog providing information about Common Core. This data tracking seems to be related to the new Common Core curriculum.
    I ran into this NY Daily article that discussed InBloom and Illinois was mentioned as one of the states buying into the program. That shouldn’t surprise us, ay?
    Other states that have already signed on to release student data to inBloom are Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Louisiana.

    Glad you asked. We do need to have this on our radar. It’s an important and alarming issue.

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