When the Public School System Prioritizes Control Instead of Children

School choice has improved personalized learning opportunities, but often overlooked is access to public school sports and extracurricular activities. While equal access laws allow homeschoolers to participate in public school activities, states without them deny these rights. The best states allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities and play on the sports teams of public schools.

Ten states currently do not allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and extracurricular activities. The ten are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

An additional 20 states place unnecessary burdens on homeschool students who want to participate in public school activities, such as approval from a school board, varying district policies, full-time enrollment, and various academic standards. These states are Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

30 out of 50 states put roadblocks in front of children trying to get more involved and better themselves.

These laws undermine a child’s worth and harm their development by restricting access to certain economic or career advantages. Because of differences and inequalities among public schools, an athletically gifted child might have to choose between embracing intellectual or athletic talents if a school has successful sport programs but maintains a poor academic and social environment.

The child could receive a more fulfilling, personalized education through homeschooling but could not pursue their athletic potential. Many families cannot afford private school and charter schools have limited room. This forces students to make an unfair choice.

Equal access laws direct school districts and state education departments to allow home educated students to participate in extracurricular activities offered at the students assigned school. They are criticized as allowing homeschoolers to play by a different set of rules and crowding out public school students. Since homeschoolers have chosen to opt out of public education, perhaps they should forgo other public school “privileges” detractors say.

However, denying non-public school students’ access to public school activities and sports teams denies them the right of due process in their property interest in the free public education guaranteed to them by state constitutions. Non-public school students are entitled to equal protection under the law. Refusing to give them access to part-time activities is a case of discrimination.

Many parents choose not to enroll their child in public school classes due to a sincerely held religious belief. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 64 percent of parents stated religious instruction as an important reason in their decision to homeschool, and 77 percent of parents stated moral instruction.

Homeschooling gives parents the choice to provide religious and moral instruction not provided in traditional public-school settings. Prohibiting access to public school activities thus violates the Free Exercise Clause.

Courts have struck down these arguments by claiming public schools have limited resources. In fact, homeschooled children provide their public-school district with more available resources provided from their family’s tax payments when not attending the school full time. Homeschooling families give American taxpayers an estimated $22 billion annually by forgoing taxpayer-funded education.

In addition, courts avoid giving homeschoolers access to public school activities by asserting the need to uphold a certain academic standard for participants. However, homeschoolers on average, do better academically. The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.

To be fair, some homeschool parents do not accept government services for fear of government overreach from burdensome requirements on their child’s education. Lawmakers can mitigate this fear by embracing competition in academic standards, protecting parents’ right to teach their children at home and enabling more families to homeschool.

Homeschoolers should not be denied the developmental, economic or career advantages of participating in public school sports or extra-curricular activities. There is no excuse for punishing children who seek alternatives to a failing education system. Parents should be enabled by our institutions to choose the type of education and extracurricular activities best suited for their child’s personal needs. Those who delay this, who believe the government should control education with an iron first, strip parents of their choice and of their freedom.

In Depth: Education

An excellent education has long been recognized as key to the American Dream. Unfortunately, the current monopolistic and expensive K-12 education system is failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life. Similarly, our higher education system is leaving students with higher debt burdens and fewer career guarantees…

+ Education In Depth