Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:01 pm

To the Editor:
“They want everything!” So said a representative of the American Federation of Teachers referring to homeschoolers and their battle for equal access to public school sports.
Twenty-four states currently have equal access laws requiring public schools to allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports. Tennessee does not have this law but leaves it to individual school boards to decide.
Opponents of equal access argue that homeschoolers have no right to public school sports; that homeschoolers deserve the consequences of their school choice.
This is an “all or nothing” argument, saying that public education has its advantages, as does homeschooling, and it’s not fair to have the best of both worlds. Another argument is that to be on a school team, a player needs to be part of the school community, and have his coaches keep tabs on him.
But homeschoolers argue that, for many reasons, equal access to public school sports is important. It benefits not only the homeschool players, but the schools and the entire community as well.
Sports provide a great aid to education, and allowing equal access can pay big dividends, as a couple of cases have shown.
Jason Taylor, an NFL defensive star, might easily have never been a football player. Why? He was homeschooled. But Jason got a run of luck when the local high school coach noticed him doing yard work one day. The two talked, and the coach asked why Jason didn’t try out for the football team. Jason replied he didn’t know he could since he was homeschooled. The coach was able to change the high school policy so homeschoolers were admitted to extracurricular activities.
After high school, Jason went on to the University of Akron, where he was a stand-out defensive lineman. He was a 3rd round draft pick in the 1997 NFL draft. In the NFL, Jason was the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has been selected for six pro bowls, has received all-pro honors four times, was the NFL Alumni Association’s Defensive Lineman of the Year for two consecutive years, and has the most sacks in Miami Dolphin history.
In 2005, a homeschooler by the name of Tim Tebow won the Florida state football championship with Neese High School. He then went on to the University of Florida, where he won two national championships, the Sugar Bowl, and the Heisman Trophy. He is one of the most famous players in the history of Florida football. Because of Tim Tebow’s example, several states have proposed bills for equal access named after him.
Equal access to public school sports offers a larger talent pool for the sports teams. Imagine the homeschoolers out there who could be the next Tim Tebow or Jason Taylor, but might never be because they’re not allowed to play public school sports.
A major argument of homeschoolers for equal access is that to deny it is discrimination. Since homeschoolers pay the same taxes as public schoolers, and a percentage of these taxes go to public schools, homeschoolers are contributors to public schools. But if they are denied equal access to public school sponsored activities, the charge of discrimination seems to fit.
But the most important argument for equal access is that it unites, rather than divides, the community. Instead of public school versus home school, all of the community’s students are viewed together. Sports, and other extracurricular activities, provide opportunities for the members of the community to interact, socialize and build friendships.
Homeschoolers are no different from their public school peers except for where they learn. Equal access benefits the kids, their parents, and the community.
Equal access to public school sports is advantageous for all parties involved. Public schools belong to the community, and homeschoolers are as much a part of that community as public schoolers. Community is important, and is best not divided.
As a homeschooler myself, equal access is very important to me, and I hope someday to see Tennessee adopt this policy.
With stronger communities come stronger states, and with stronger states, a stronger country.

William McDonald

wcp 5/24/11


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