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Wis. Legislators Under Fire for Advancing 'Tebow' Bill in Late-Night Meeting

Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee advanced a measure during a late-night meeting last week that would allow home-schooled, private, and charter students to participate in public school sports and activities, much to the chagrin of critics.

According to Dana Ferguson of The Associated Press, that particular measure wasn't discussed during the meeting, which rubbed some the wrong way.

"For that to be done in a sneaky, behind-the-scenes fashion and passed at 1:30 in the morning without any discussion ... that's a problem," said Larry Kaseman, executive director of the Wisconsin Parents Association, to the AP.

Dave Anderson, executive director of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, told WisPolitics that he expected many of his members to oppose the measure (via the School Administrators Alliance). Some members have expressed concern about non-public school students displacing their public school peers on sports teams, Anderson said, which could lead to declines in public school enrollment.

"We view sports activities as truly an extension of the classroom and extension of the school day," he told WisPolitics. "It's not just something that we throw out in sound bites. It's the basis of our reason to exist."

Stephen Schiell, an administrator at the Amery school district, echoed that concern to the AP.

"Any student going to another district (through open enrollment) or not going to our schools hurts the district tremendously," he said. "They could be bumping a whole lot of people. Parents could find their child watching from the bench."

The Journal Times' editorial board came out strongly in opposition to the measure:

Parents are free to home-school their children or send them to private school, of course. But kids whose parents have chosen to have their children educated elsewhere do not just get to helicopter in for the fun stuff at the public school. Therefore, the legislature has no business making provisions for kids who don't contribute to the per-pupil budget at their local public school to participate in that school's sports program.

Rep. Bob Kulp, who authored the measure, told the AP that state residents pay taxes benefiting public schools and should thus be allowed to benefit from their athletic programs or other extracurricular activities.

If the proposal passes—it must still clear both chambers of Congress before Gov. Scott Walker considers it for final approval—it would not allow private and charter school students to participate in sports or other activities offered by their own schools. Additionally, home-schooled, private, and charter school students would be held to the same standards, both academically and discipline-wise, as their public school peers.

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