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Homeschoolers as Public School Athletes

A controversial bill in Virginia:

Next fall, Patrick, 17, would like to try out as a kicker on the football team at Freedom High School in South Riding, Va., but he is home-schooled and thus ineligible.

“My parents pay the same exact taxes as my next-door neighbor who plays varsity sports,” he said. “I just want to be part of the community. You shouldn’t have to pick between athletics and academics.”

A hotly contested bill that passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday would change that, permitting home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public high schools. The Virginia bill is the latest attempt by home-schooling advocates around the country to gain greater access to extracurricular activities at public schools.

The reader who sent that story along asked what I thought. Here’s what I think: I’m pleased that the state of Virginia is trying to accomodate homeschoolers in this way, and I would be grateful if my state did the same. If Florida hadn’t done this, we’d have no Tim Tebow. That said, I understand the objection to it, and believe, as does my reader, that when people opt out of the public school system, there are certain consequences that come with that choice. Not being able to participate in varsity athletics is one of them. My point is that while I would be thankful if this privilege were extended to homeschooled kids, I don’t expect it. From the Times story:

William Bosher, a professor of public policy and education at Virginia Commonwealth University and a former state superintendent of public schools who advocated for home-schooling, said: “I support choice, but if you’ve chosen that, you can’t use public schools as an à la carte system. It’s football today. Tomorrow it’s a National Academy of Sciences project. The next day it’s homecoming queen. Where does it begin and end?”

Again, that’s a good point … but it makes me wonder: “Why can’t you use public schools as an a la carte system?” Some places let homeschooled kids take math and science courses in the local public schools. If homeschooling parents are taxpayers, why not? Understand I ask that as a theoretical question. I am satisfied to have the right to homeschool my children, and don’t expect special privileges from a school system that I’ve opted out of. Still, given that my taxes support this school system, it doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable to ask the question.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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