Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Public school

Homeschool parents deservedly lose battle to get kids on public school teams

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This piece in the Joliet Herald News makes it sound like the Minooka (Ill.) school board members on the majority side of a recent 5-2 vote in favor of excluding homeschooled kids from sports made a decision tantamount to throwing those kids in the educational garbage can. To the contrary. The homeschooling parents already made their statement about public schools by not enrolling their children in them, so I don’t think they get the right to cherrypick when suddenly they decide the evil government school has something they want.

Before I get to that, a word from Chris Balkema, one of the board members who voted for allowing homeschoolers to play:

“Right now with students and parents who are paying our bills, the current policy discriminates against students who learn at home.”

This is laughable. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. For if Balkema had even the slightest understanding of his state’s laws on homeschooling, and on the state high school athletic association’s rules on homeschoolers, he would have punted this dumb suggestion out the door, too. (Of course, asking a school board member to be educated and even-handed is usually a lot to ask.)

Illinois, actually, is a very friendly state to homeschoolers. A 1950 court decision allowed for homeschooling, treating those children as if they were enrolled in their own little private school. Today, Illinois is one of 10 states that does not require homeschooling parents to alert their public school district that they are teaching their kids at home. A 1974 federal court ruling said that parents in the state have to file some sort of progress report with the district, but no one ever enforces that. So Illinois parents have carte blanche to teach their kids at home without the government poking its nose inside the kitchen, or the dining room, or wherever the home classroom is.

In exchange for being left out of the claws of the local government-run school district, however, home-schooled students can’t participate in it. You might say, but they pay taxes to the district! True. But state funding of the schools is determined by actual attendance. So the homeschooling parents would end up getting services on state taxpayers’ dime. The only services Illinois law mandates are given to private as well as public school students are drivers’ education, and a limited amount of special education. That’s it. But that’s the price you pay for getting to teach your child exactly the way you want, when you want. The Illinois State Board of Education says that districts are under no obligation to provide anything else. They can, but they don’t have to.

Plus, the Illinois High School Association has clear rules on whether private school kids — and, remember, that’s what homeschoolers are — can play for a public school. The rules are, they can’t. If the testimony of Theon Hill at that Minooka board hearing is to be believed, his playing sports at Romeoville High School while still a homeschooler would have been a violation of this IHSA rule:

A student must attend a member school and may only represent in interscholastic competition the member school the student attends. For purposes of this by-law, the term “attend” shall mean that the student is enrolled at the member school,
and is taking at, or under arrangements approved by the member school, a minimum of twenty (20) credit hours of work
for which credit toward high school graduation will be granted by the member school upon the student’s completing and
passing the courses. The school which enrolls the student shall be exclusively responsible to verify the student’s compliance
with all of the eligibility requirements of all IHSA by-laws.

I know that many states have passed so-called “Tim Tebow laws,” allowing homeschool athletes to play school sports. Florida passed the first such law in 1996, though not because of Tebow, who wouldn’t bless high school fields with his presence for about another half-decade. However, Tebow is usually cited as Reason No. 1 for creating such a law, as if every homeschooler was a future Heisman Trophy winner.

Tim Tebow sez: “Hey, homeschool kids! You’re not going to not have sex with someone like this if you can’t play school sports!”

Even if a state doesn’t pass a Tim Tebow law, in some cases courts have allowed homeschoolers to play. One might say, activist courts, if they didn’t have the support of right-wing, Christian organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association. That makes those judges honest, common-sense kinds of people.

The Home School Legal Defense Association itself shows how homeschooling organizations — still overwhelming evangelical Christian, even as homeschooling has spread beyond its population (insufferable liberals instead call it “unschooling” to separate themselves from the conservative rabble) — try to play both sides of the high school football field chain-link fence.

After a West Virginia lawsuit the HSLDA supported successfully overturned the state’s rule preventing homeschoolers from playing public school sports, the victorious attorney declared that the “homeschooled are part of the public education system.” The HSLDA said, um, no, they’re not: “HSLDA disagrees with this statement. Homeschooled children are privately educated and have only minor contact with the public school system.”

Yes — only the contact that homeschool families choose to have, the kind that makes up for what homeschoolers lack, without exposing them too much to bad things like cooties, street gangs, and Catholics.

Look, homeschool parents: you’re either all-in, or you’re out. It doesn’t hurt to ask a public school if little Mordecai can play, but if it says no, don’t walk out in a huff and act like you’ve been denied your inalienable rights. Plenty of other parents across the country have set up networks of homeschool athletic leagues, bands, choirs, you name it. Don’t have one in your area? Here are some resources for starting one.

[youtubevid id=”1MD7JgRFZ1A”]

An example of a homeschool league. Also, an example of possible trademark infringement that might draw a letter from the NCAA.

Failing that, your local parks departments or independent sports leagues have teams that are open to anyone with only one qualification: the check clears. There are club teams you find as well. In fact, you’re better off with them if you think little Esther Homeschooler has a shot at a college scholarship, because most coaches scout elite leagues; they don’t even bother to look at school sports anymore.

For those Minooka, Ill., parents all upset that their kids aren’t going to be future Indians, if it means that much to you, put your kids in public schools. And trust that your influence doesn’t disappear the moment your child is out of your sight, and that you can still educate your child even when others are doing some of that work for you.


God and cheerleader at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High

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If you attend one school board meeting this year, it looks like the one to attend will be Tues., Oct. 13’s regularly scheduled session of the Catoosa County School Board in Ringgold, Ga. That’s because the meeting will feature a large crowd of people always known to liven up an otherwise staid board or town hall meeting — religious fundamentalists.

They’re descending on Ringgold because over the last few weeks, a story has developed over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High’s varsity football cheerleaders writing Bible verses on the huge tissue-paper poster the players run through for their spirited pregame entry, instead of their writing something less controversial like “Go Warriors,” “We’re 14th in the State in SAT Scores,” or “Meet Me After the Game for a Hand Job.”

3921854829_4e2645cf92How to strip a Bible verse of its context. The 10th chapter of Ezra starts like this: While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath.

This case of religion in public school sports is a bit of an oddball because the local resident who pointed out the possible illegality of the sign was not a hard-core atheist or someone else with a religious bone to pick. It was a parent who had taken a law class at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, and who had picked up the lesson through that religiously sympathetic institution that the cheerleaders’ signs could violate separation-of-church-and-state laws and be potentially divisive in the community.

Also a bit of an oddball, the superintendent, instead of sending the Holy Wrath of the Lord on all who would desecrate the cheerleaders’ sign, ordered no more Bible verses on the field. Denia Reese’s statement is a testament, no pun intended, to how a school official can grudgingly balance her personal beliefs and the rights of others:

“I regret that we had to ask the LFO cheerleaders to change the signs used in the stadium prior to football games. Personally, I appreciate this expression of their Christian values; however, as Superintendent I have the responsibility of protecting the school district from legal action by groups who do not support their beliefs.”

On the surface, the upcoming school board meeting appears to be a tribute to Christian passive-aggressiveness. From the Facebook page of those organizing a rally at the meeting:

This is not a political rally! This is simply a call to Christians to come out and pray for our school system and leaders who are making decisions. Also, to show our support for the sign.

We are going to continue to pray that some how the cheerleaders will get their signs back!

Several members of the community will be speaking to the board at 6 PM during public participation. We will gather for prayer outside of the board room at 7 PM.

Still, the way any public meeting goes, whether it’s about religion or not, there should be some fire and brimstone brought to the microphone stand. Hopefully, the school board stands firm. Like the superintendent, it can be as personally sympathetic as it wants. It can talk about what a good Christian community the school represents. It can talk about how the hand of Satan is behind the sign being taken away. But what the school board can’t do is give its blessing, no pun intended, that the sign return.

The superintendent set up a compromise where a big ol’ Bible verse sign can be put up before any steps onto school grounds to see a game. Hey, that’s great. But she and the board knows that if that sign goes back up on the field, a lawsuit is sure to follow, especially now that this case has gotten nationwide attention. It’s the same old story — nobody is stopping you from praying privately and on your own time that Jesus helps you smite the opposition. Just don’t make everyone pray with you.

Written by rkcookjr

October 12, 2009 at 12:14 am

Will pay-to-play in school sports keep kids on the sidelines?

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It happened in 1991, it happened in 2002, and it’s really, really, really, really, really happening now. In recessionary times, public school districts begin charging fees for sports and other extracurricular activities. Except in Ohio’s sixth-largest school district, in southwest Columbus, which didn’t want its poorer children put in the position of being left out because of money, so it eliminated sports and activities for everyone.

But extreme equality — we treat you all like dogs — aside, scores of school districts are instituting fees for the first time, and they’re afraid that each dollar that has to come out of a parent’s pocket means one less student playing sports. In Loudon County, Va., one of the fastest-growing exurbs in the country during the housing boom, a $15 million budget gap means a $100-a-head fee per student, per sport. From the Loudon Times:

Park View football coach Andy Hill’s primary concern is that the fee might discourage athletes who think they are unlikely to see a lot of playing time.

“The starting varsity athletes will come up with a way to find the fee,” Hill said. “I think the big question is what about that second-tier player? What about that JV player?”

For the 2008-09 school year, the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations reported that participation in high school sports had risen for the 20th straight year — 55.2 percent of all boys and girls, up from 54.8 percent in 2007-08. But pay-for-play was just beginning to trickle into places it had never trickled before. Also in the Washington Post story reporting these numbers was this foreboding paragraph:

According to a source at Montgomery County (Md.) public schools, however, sports participation in Montgomery dropped in 2008-09, down nearly 20 percent from 2007-08. A noticeable drop-off occurred in the winter and spring, once the economic downturn was clearly not a quick blip in the market. Furthermore, the source said the number of students who received a waiver of the county’s $30 athletic participation fee tripled from the previous year. According to a source at Montgomery County public schools, however, sports participation in Montgomery dropped in 2008-09, down nearly 20 percent from 2007-08. A noticeable drop-off occurred in the winter and spring, once the economic downturn was clearly not a quick blip in the market. Furthermore, the source said the number of students who received a waiver of the county’s $30 athletic participation fee tripled from the previous year. (Note: Montgomery raised its fee from $20 to $30 in 2007.)

That’s not a good sign for schools going from zero to $100 or $300 if a $30 fee is pricing out a lot of families. If you want another ominous sign, one northern California district that tried to get families of players to contribute to their the athletic department is now threatening cancellation of sports or forfeiture of games by teams with uncollected fees, because it’s so far behind the budgetary eight-ball.

There’s an argument that children who participate in extracurricular activities should help pay the freight. However, what these fees do is make school sports and activities like park district or private or club activities — something that skews toward people with money, leaving struggling families out in the cold. It’s a shame that in a public school, a child could not participate because of a fee, on top of the taxes the family already pays. Of course, sometimes the problem isn’t just a declining real-estate market killing property tax collections — in this economy, many residents are less likely to vote for a tax referendum that they ever were.

Are pay-to-play fees for sports and other activities keeping your kids from participating? Have you noticed any participation problems in your area because of this?

Written by rkcookjr

September 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

A change in transfer rules hoists New Jersey's public schools on their own petard

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Here’s one for the “be careful what you wish for” category.

Public high schools in New Jersey wanted to crack down on what they (and every public school in the nation) saw as private schools recruiting away their best athletes.  Specifically, they wanted the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to toughen the penalty for a high school athlete transferring from one school to another. And they got it. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the penalty for New Jersey high school athletes who transfer without a “bona fide change in residence” was kicked up from 30 days to 365 days. Basically, it’s the equivalent to the NCAA’s rule that athletic transfers must sit out a year, except that in high school you don’t get an extra year of eligibility.

The rule has worked spectacularly well at keeping athletes from transferring… to public schools.

Turns out, the lousy economy has people taking their kids out of pricey private schools in favor of their local public school. So there are kids who would love to try out for sports at their public schools, except they can’t — because of the public school-backed rule that says they must sit out a year because their family didn’t move. From the Press of Atlantic City:

NJSIAA officials expected the changes to cause a ruckus. The economy made it worse. [NJISAA assistant director Bob] Baly received daily calls from parents and athletic directors. Parents wanted the rule explained. Some, according to [NJSIAA executive director Steve] Timko, wanted to appeal before their child even transferred.

…The NJSIAA eligibility committee heard 26 appeals in 2007-08 — none of them involved transfers. The committee heard 67 cases in 2008-09 — 46 of them involved students transferring from nonpublic schools to public high schools.

The rule allowed hardship waivers to be granted for “unforeseeable” and “unavoidable” conditions that “impose a severe burden” on students or their families. That burden can’t be for a sports reason, such as a lack of playing time or a disagreement with a coach.

The eligibility committee found itself examining families’ finances to see whether they met the hardship criteria.

The committee granted waivers in 39 of the 46 cases it heard of athletes transferring from nonpublic to public high schools. Nearly all of those waivers were for financial reasons. The waivers made the athletes eligible immediately or 30 days into the season.

…The number of appeals from nonpublic athletes shows that at least for one year the new rule backfired somewhat on the public schools.

So are public schools saying, hey, maybe we should rethink this? Hell, no.

Still, many public school officials support the tougher sanction. They say the controversy should die down because people are more familiar with the rule and the economy is improving.

Don Robbins, president of the Cape-Atlantic League and Vineland’s athletic director, was on the executive committee in 2008 and voted in favor of the rule. He said he would vote that way again.

“I think it’s a great rule to guard against the blue chipper getting recruited,” he said. “The thing that makes me a little leery is what it does to the program kid. The kid who plays soccer, tennis or football for the love of it and has to for one reason or another leave a school. But that’s why you have an eligibility committee, which makes decisions in the best interest of the kids.”

To paraphrase Mike Muir, I go wait, what are you talking about, YOU decided? THE CHILD’s best interests? How do you know what THE CHILD’s best interest is? How can you say what THE CHILD’s best interest is?

Especially when it’s clear as day that the public schools don’t give a rat’s behind what the child’s best interest is. Somehow I gather that if a coach left a public school for a private school, or vice versa, he or she would not have to sit out 365 days (just like how the NCAA requires a transferring player to sit out but not a transferring coach). So you’re going to make some kid who won’t play past high school sweat out an eligibility committee because you’re afraid Johnny Blue-Chipper is going to go Catholic on you? Someone I don’t see the school being quite as concerned if someone left because a school had a better marching band program. Let me know when you make a tuba player sit out 365 days.

I’m not crazy. You’re the one that’s crazy.

[youtubevid id=”LoF_a0-7xVQ”]

Written by rkcookjr

August 31, 2009 at 6:18 pm