Should homeschoolers have equal access to participate in extra curricular activities at their local public school, including athletics? That is the question many state legislatures are wrestling with right now.
Most homeschoolers have pulled their kids out of public schools because they want to keep their kids away from the bad influences found in public schools, influences coming either from troubled kids or from godless, humanistic teachings. Many homeschoolers would not want to participate in any public school activities even they were allowed to do so. So some might say homeschoolers have made their choice and they do not need equal access.
But while many homeschoolers would opt to stay away from public schools anyway, many others would like to be able to participate in public school athletics or other extra curricular activities if they were allowed. Homeschool kids have a tough time getting athletic scholarships from colleges because they are not on the radar screen for college recruiters to discover them. Beyond athletics, there are many other activities that could benefit homeschoolers. Should they be denied access?
Supporters of equal access have a valid argument; they deserve equal access to public schools because they are paying for them. Even though homeschoolers are required to pay the same property, state, local and federal taxes as anyone else, they get no educational benefits for those tax dollars. Homeschoolers put the same money into the pot as anyone else but they get no benefits.
With over 2 million homeschool kids in the country, it is estimated that homeschoolers are saving states over $16 billion each year in educational costs. Their reward for paying their taxes and saving all these costs is take a hike, stay out. It only seems fair that they should either receive a tax break or be eligible to receive some benefits from what they paid for, but no states give them any tax breaks and only 24 states currently allow them to have equal access. Most states are still saying thank you very much for your tax money, but stay out of our schools.
But there is some good news for homeschoolers. The tide appears to be rising for more states to pass equal access laws. This new momentum is coming from a star homeschooler in Florida named Tim Tebow.
In 1996, Florida enacted new legislation to allow their homeschool students equal access. Florida was well rewarded in 2006 and 2008 when the University of Florida won two college football national championships led by Tim Tebow at quarterback, a homeschool student who was allowed to play football at Nease High School, a public high school in the St. Johns County School District, located in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Nease High School was also well rewarded when Tebow led their football team to win the state championship in 2005. In 2007, Tebow brought home the Heisman trophy and the Maxwell Award, both recognizing him as the nation’s best college football player.
Upon becoming the first homeschool athlete to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy, Tebow said, “That’s really cool. A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic – it’s like, go win a spelling bee or something like that – it’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”
Thanks to Tebow, another 15 states are now pushing to gain similar access for their homeschool students. In Alabama, Kentucky and Arkansas, the new bills are even referred to as the ‘Tim Tebow bill’.
Tebow recently announced his intentions to postpone joining the NFL draft so he can return to the University of Florida for his senior year. As his success continues, more people, including more legislators, are learning why it makes a lot of sense to grant homeschoolers equal access. Tebow is not only helping to change state laws, he is also making new Gator fans out of a lot of homeschoolers all over the country.
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