A House committee approved a bill this week that would allow home-schooled students to use public school facilities and participate in public school sports.
Bill sponsor Rep. Fred Tilman, R-Boise, said the bill was “necessary to establish a standard policy so everybody knows what the rules of the game are.”
A recent Idaho High School Activities Association ruling sought to block home-schooled students from sports.
If parents of home-schooled children pay taxes for the public schools, then “it’s only fair they’re able to use the services,” Tilman said. The bill also sets dispute guidelines between public schools and home-schoolers to prevent the matters from going to court.
Home-schooled students could participate in classes and other extracurricular activities under the bill, but the debate centers around home-schoolers playing on sports teams. Public school students think it’s unfair that they have to meet academic requirements in order to participate in athletics, but homeschoolers face no such requirement.
The House committee called for two amendments to Tilman’s bill to address this. One requires homeschooled students to pass a standardized test in order to play.
The other would prevent public school children from switching to home-schooling to avoid academic requirements to play sports. They would have to wait for the remainder of the public school year plus another year before being allowed in any extracurricular activities.
Rep. Tom Dorr, R-Post Falls, said some lawmakers oppose allowing home-schooled kids in because they fear it will show how successful home-schooling is. Dorr home schools his children.
“Home-schoolers always do a lot better. They’re afraid they’ll prove that home schools are going to excel,” Dorr said.
North Idaho lawmakers on the House Education Committee voted for the bill.
“Public school systems are afraid of competition, they’re not turning out a good product,” said Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum.
Meyer said he supported the bill in part because small schools in his district need home-schoolers “just to get enough students to field a basketball team.” Many Post Falls students are in home or private schools, Meyer said.