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Bill Opens Public Schools To Home-Schoolers Senate Passage Allows Children To Participate In Sports, Activities

The state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to allow home-schooled students to take part in public school activities and sports.

The bill overturns a decision by the Idaho High School Activities Association, which recently ruled that students not in public schools can’t compete in public school sports.

“As long as there’s one parent whose child is being denied access to the public schools, it’s wrong and should be corrected,” said Sen. Rod Beck, the bill’s floor sponsor. He said the bill would allow the state to provide activities or classes that home or private schools cannot.

“We want to educate all children, not just those who go to public schools,” he said. “All parents pay taxes.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives two weeks ago, 69-1. The Senate voted 26-9 Tuesday to send the bill to the governor.

Beck surveyed 82 of the state’s 112 school districts. Of those, 24 said they allow private- or home-schooled children to take classes, while 32 said they do not. The remaining 26 schools said they have no policy.

Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, argued that students appearing for only one class or practice a day would be disruptive to the school day. But Beck said the outside students would be subject to the same rules as regular students.

Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, broke from his party and voted against the bill. It would allow student athletes to compete without meeting public school academic requirements, he argued.

How would a school enforce a truancy disqualification from an athletic team against a home-schooler, he asked, without making it appear he or she is receiving special treatment over full-time students?

“I think the rules go down the tubes,” Darrington said. “I vote no.”

Sen. Tim Tucker also broke party lines - to vote for the bill.

“These people are taxpayers. They’re already paying for it (public schooling),” he said afterward.

Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino, joined Reed in voting against the bill. Sens. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum, and Gordon Crow, R-Coeur d’Alene, voted for it.