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Will Wisc. Lawmakers Let Home-School Students Play District Sports?

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A proposed provision in the Wisconsin state budget that would allow home-schooled students to participate on public school sports teams and extracurricular activities has drawn strong opposition from around the state, largely from the home school community itself.

State lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Finance voted 12-4 in favor of including the provision in the state budget. It's unclear if the provision stands a chance to become law as lawmakers have been battling over approving a state budget—an impasse that has delayed passage of a new spending plan.

The measure would require a school district to allow local students who are home-schooled, or enrolled in a local private or charter school, to participate on its sports teams or in extracurricular activities if their own schools don't offer them. Districts would be allowed to set standards for the students to meet in order to participate.

But the homeschool community is divided on this issue. Opposition has risen because parents believe that following standards to participate in extracurricular activities could lead to increased regulation of homeschooling.

The Wisconsin Parents Association, an organization that focuses on supporting the rights of families who homeschool, highly opposes this legislation.

WPA represents a larger community of home school families who do not want their educational freedom to be compromised in order for some families to play sports. WPA created an online petition opposing the legislation and received more than 1,100 signatures. Also, they scripted a clear list of complaints for their members to articulate to legislators that they are urging to reject the provision.

In an update, WPA Executive Director Larry Kaseman said, "Homeschoolers don't want legislators to inject government into homeschools in Wisconsin against the expressed opposition of the vast majority of Wisconsin homeschoolers, basically in response to 2 Assembly Representatives and a small group of homeschoolers who are willing to surrender homeschooling freedoms in order to play public school sports."

Kaseman describes the divide as "something like 90/10" in favor of not supporting this provision.

WPA isn't the only organization against this legislation. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) is a nonprofit that public and private schools voluntarily join to create a conference-like program for sports. They created a petition that received 1,235 signatures.

This legislation wouldn't allow school districts to be a part of an athletic association "unless the association required member school districts to permit home-based, private, charter, and virtual charter pupils to participate in athletic activities in the district."

"Education-based athletics are not community or recreational youth sports programs. The WIAA and school sports are not designed to provide the general public with programming like a YMCA or community-based recreation program," WIAA said in a news release. "In order to be eligible to participate in school athletics at a WIAA member school, the student must be a full-time student at that school and adhere to the academic and athletic codes of conduct required by membership in the Association."

Organizations like the WPA do not want to conform to the requirements of athletic associations and public schools in order to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.

Past efforts to pass similar legislation have failed.

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