A teenager and his Washougal, Washington teammates are benefiting from a state law requiring government schools to allow homeschooling families access to resources children attending government schools get.
Sophomore running back Peter Boylan plays for his local high school’s football team while receiving his education from his parents. The family moved to the area in 2001.
Washington enacted legislation in 1985 requiring school districts to extend access to taxpayer-funded educational services and resources, including extracurricular activities, to homeschooling families.
The state’s rules for homeschooling families allowed Boylan to help the Panthers defeat their conference rivals, the Ridgefield Spudders, in September.
Leader in Homeschooling Laws
Jen Garrison Stuber, an advocacy chair with the Washington Homeschool Organization, a nonprofit group representing the interests of home-based education, says the state has been a leader in accommodating homeschooling families.
“Washington is almost entirely unique among the states in that our part-time attendance and ancillary-services law predates homeschooling by 16 years,” Stuber says. “In 1969, Washington State passed a law allowing part-time attendance and access to ancillary services for students enrolled in private schools. When our homeschool law was passed in 1985, that was amended to also include homeschooled students.”
Homeschoolers on Home Field
Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, says homeschool access policies are sometimes referred to as Tebow laws, after former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, a beneficiary of a 1996 law enacted in Florida.
“A so-called Tim Tebow law is one that allows a homeschool or charter school student to participate in extracurricular activities at a traditional district school or private school while the student is still learning at home.”
Opting for Options
Butcher says increasing educational options is better for everyone, especially the children.
“Every child is different, and parents should have the freedom to choose how and where their child learns, no matter what school they are assigned to according to their ZIP code,” Butcher said. “So, just as every family should be able to educate their child at home if they choose to, and as efforts continue around the country to make charter schools available to every child, along with education savings accounts and other private learning opportunities, those homeschool options should include the option to participate in district school services such as sports or extracurricular activities.
“Those activities, from concert band to football, are experiences that can enrich a child’s life and be an important part of their academic and personal growth,” Butcher said.
Extracurricular activities can promote a well-rounded education, Butcher says.
“These are lessons for life that cannot always be taught inside a classroom,” Butcher said.
Reform Obstacles and Objectives
Stuber says the National Education Association (NEA), a nationwide public-sector labor union representing government school teachers and staff, is a vocal opponent of expanding extracurricular access to homeschooled children, and homeschooling itself. In 1988, the NEA passed a resolution stating its opposition to the participation of homeschool students in extracurricular activities, which it reaffirmed in 2006.
NEA’s opposition has influenced policies preventing homeschooled students from participating in extracurricular activities sponsored by government schools, says Stuber. “I think this resolution is one of the reasons so many states don’t have Tebow laws,” Stuber said. “Many states’ homeschool laws were enacted after 1988, the year the NEA began issuing this resolution against homeschooling.”
Butcher says lawmakers should work to increase access and flexibility for homeschooling parents and their children.
“Homeschool students should be able to take classes at district and charter schools, even if it requires purchasing the class or paying an hourly rate,” Butcher said.
This access should come with no strings attached, Butcher says.
“Homeschool students should not be required to take end-of-year state tests that are required of district and charter students,” Butcher said.
Ashley Herzog ([email protected]) writes from Avon Lake, Ohio.
Jenni White, “Homeschool Sports Leagues Continue Steady Growth,” The Heartland Institute, January 23, 2018: https://heartland.org/news-opinion/news/homeschool-sports-leagues-continue-steady-growth