Athletes focus of pre-filed state bill – Kentucky

Athletes focus of pre-filed state bill

By LAUREL WILSON The Daily News 783-3240 | Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 11:32 am

A pre-filed bill for the 2015 legislative session would allow students who are home-schooled or attend private school to participate in extracurricular activities in their local public school district.

Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, filed the bill last week.

Local home-school parents are excited about the bill’s potential, but a local school athletic official and legislator have reservations.

Janet Jackson, who has home-schooled her three children for 11 years, thinks the bill would be great for Kentucky.

“I think it’s exciting,” she said. “If it passes, it seems like it would be a win-win for both sides. Homeschoolers would have a variety of sports, and schools would benefit from more kids.”

Her home-schooled son was able to join Bowling Green Christian Academy’s cross country team a couple of years ago, but the bill would give him and other home-schoolers additional options, Jackson said.

“I think it would be a great opportunity,” she said. “I think there would be many, many kids who would give it a try.”

Tina Nahid, chairwoman of the Barren River Homeschool Association, believes the bill would be beneficial, although she stressed she can’t speak for all parents in the association. There are activities available for local home-schoolers, including a home-school basketball team and community sports teams, but she thinks it would be nice to have other opportunities.

“Many parents would like to at least have the options,” she said.

Eric Wilson, district athletic director for Warren County Public Schools, said he’s interested in learning more about the bill, but he already sees a difficulty. It would be hard to determine athletic eligibility, which includes academic and attendance requirements, when not all home-school programs have the same standards.

“There’s not really a one-size-fits-all home-school program,” he said.

Leslie Peek, public relations coordinator for Bowling Green Independent Schools, said the district doesn’t have a statement on a bill that hasn’t been brought up yet.

Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, said in a news release that the bill, as drafted, would fundamentally alter high school athletics in the state.

“This proposed act is particularly different from past acts, as it appears to offer a blanket opportunity for any nonpublic school to have its students participate in school-based sports at another school,” Tackett said in the release.

The 277 KHSAA member schools have been against similar bills in the past because of concerns including academic accountability for the nonpublic school students, according to the release.

“There seems to be no means of verifying the student’s curriculum to allow for comparison of equitable academic performance to those students in public schools,” the release stated.

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, who serves on the house education committee, said he was a sponsor of a similar bill four or five years ago, but it never made it out of committee.

“Everybody pays school taxes, so all kids should have access to what public schools have to offer,” he said. “If someone’s home-schooled and wants to take part in band or football, they should be allowed that opportunity.”

He believes the bill would have a good chance of passing if Republicans take control of the Statehouse in the November elections.

Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, also on the house education committee, said he’d be surprised if the bill comes out of committee.

“It’s a controversial issue,” he said. “It could open up recruiting issues. … It’s not totally simple, and I would just have to see how it would be written before I would support it.”

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