A potential law would allow virtual and homeschooled students to join Kansas public school sports teams and events.
But opponents of the bill, including the state’s high school athletics governing body, say the measure would undermine the academic component of participation in school events and games.
Lawmakers on the House K-12 Education Budget Committee held a hearing Tuesday on HB 2030, which authorizes nonpublic school students and part-time public school students to participate in any activity regulated by the Kansas High School Activities Association.
In the context of the Act, “non-public schools” refers to students enrolled in any alternative education to traditional, publicly funded education, such as homeschooling, virtual schools, and non-accredited private schools.
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While a separate bill passed last year would allow families to enroll their children in any school district in Kansas, regardless of where they live, any nonpublic school student affected by this year’s proposed bill would have to live within the district limits to be able to do so due to space constraints. Attend or participate in any school activities.
Local school districts and the KSHSAA will be prohibited from enacting any policies prohibiting such participation, although schools may still require students to pay any activity fees or enroll in any specific classes that would otherwise be required for public school participants.
The measure returned to committee after previous attempts to pass legislation to open public school sports teams and activities to nonpublic school students failed in previous years.
According to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, while 25 states allow homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic activities — five of which require approval from the local school district — Kansas is another group of 20 states that do not allow any participation part of the state.
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Supporters say current Kansas high school sports policy discriminates against private school taxpayers
John Eck, the parent of a high school student in Kansas, told the committee that last semester, he and his wife decided to enroll their daughter only part-time in high school, partly out of a desire to keep her studying longer than they had in their daughter’s. Higher academic, behavioral and ethical standards seen in high school.
But because their daughter is enrolled part-time in public school, she can neither play on a public school team as a member of the KSHSAA nor in independent homeschool leagues that ban even some students enrolled in public schools.
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“Current law allows part-time students, but those students are denied the rights of homeschoolers and public schoolers,” Eck said. “This seems discriminatory to me. HB 2030 rightly opens up these sports leagues and returns them to the determination of tax-paying parents.”
Pastor Philip Hoppe of Colby, who homeschools seven children with his wife, told the committee via a virtual call that he previously lived in Minnesota, a state that does allow homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic Activity.
“I knew it could be done, and it could be done with relative ease,” Hope said.
Finding activities for older kids, especially in northwest Kansas, can be difficult, Hope said. Most communities do not have recreational unions like many of the larger communities east of Kansas, and most children and teens attend through their schools.
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He pointed to Weskan High School, a school near the Colorado border that dropped full KSHSAA affiliation in recent years as part of what Hoppe said was an effort to be able to include homeschooled students. Weskan High is now considered an “Approved School” by the KSHSAA, meaning it is not an organizational member but can compete with KSHSAA schools in non-tournament events.
“It’s a great bill for society and our community because I don’t think we want too much distance between those who aren’t in public education and those who are going to,” Hope said .
Opponents say HB 2030 undermines foundation of high academic standards in Kansas public schools
Bill Faflick, executive director of KSHSAA, said the organization and its 759 member schools opposed the bill because it undermines the organization’s goal of promoting both participation and academics.
Currently, students must meet six eligibility criteria—scholarship and academics, enrollment, age, semester of attendance, citizenship and transfer status—to participate in KSHSAA events. Specifically on the academic side, students must enroll and pass at least five courses to be eligible.
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“The goal of the eligibility criteria is really twofold,” Faflick said. “The first is to provide accountability to grassroots students and promote student achievement while promoting positive behavior and helping students academically through the development of social-emotional skills and a positive school and community culture.
“The second is to help support a level playing field where students who play on the same team as they play against opposing teams are held to the same minimum standards,” he continued.
Participation in sports and activities is one of the best motivators for students to learn and do well in school, especially those deemed at risk of not graduating, Faflick said.
He said the bill would undermine that because the KSHSAA has little ability to monitor academic standards and minimum standards in non-public schools. Under the terms of the act, there is nothing to stop a public school student who has failed grades from withdrawing from school but continuing to participate in activities.
“We don’t want that on any student,” Favlik said. “We want kids to be finishers, we want kids to be ready because they have the opportunity to be educated in school and mentored by sponsors who want the same thing.”
Others, like Deena Horst, who represents the Kansas State Board of Education, said HB 2030 would damage the sense of community fostered around high school sports.
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“Having taxpayer parents and grandparents is not the same as being part of a student body where you are involved all day long with other people who are involved in the community and in activities,” said Horst, a state board of education member from Salina.
The bill also does not currently address the issue of competing teams holding tryouts and what happens if nonpublic school students fail the tryouts.
Kansas HB 2030 discussion turns to public school criticism
Republican committee members were strongly skeptical that the bill would undermine high school academics, especially at a time when many students in Kansas scored the lowest on the lowest two of four levels on the annual state assessment and national assessment scores fell. .
In contrast, homeschooled students do not take state assessments, making it difficult to assess their academic performance as a group given the dispersed educational style of homeschooling families.
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Rep. Susan Estes of Wichita said she is concerned that KSHSAA’s current policy is too broad, leaving little wiggle room for students who don’t want to game the system.
“We may be so careful with bad actors that we punish (doing the right thing) the unintended consequences of students,” Estes said.
Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, chair of the committee, said she was dismayed that some children in Kansas were banned from KSHSAA activities “because all the kids’ parents are renting or paying taxes. “
“For us, to talk about diversity and inclusion and the needs of children of all kinds, to me, it’s the exact opposite,” Williams said. “But it’s just my opinion.”
The committee is expected to work on the bill in the coming weeks for possible passage in the full House.
Rafael Garcia is an education reporter for Topeka Capital-Journal.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 785-289-5325. Follow him on Twitter @byRafaelGarcia.