For Immediate Release: Everyone benefits when public schools are funded to provide services to homeschooled students
Canton, Ma., 02/28/2019—Yesterday, the West Virginia House of Delegates rejected House Bill 3127 by a vote of 52 to 46. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging West Virginia lawmakers to lend their support to HB 3127 or a similar bill next year. HB 3127 would have granted homeschooled students access not only to public school athletics programs but also to other public school extracurriculars and individual public school classes, while counting these students for the purposes of school funding allotment.
“HB 3127 would have offered support for homeschooling families while providing funding to the public schools that serve them,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “Access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for public schools or other students, while access to curricular programs allows homeschooled students to enroll in individual public school classes in areas parents don’t feel comfortable teaching.” Coleman continued: “Homeschooling families are a vital part of our communities. Legislation like HB 3127 promises to bring students and community together.”
“Alaska and Iowa run successful programs that fund public schools for services they make available to homeschooled students,” said Coleman. “West Virginia has the opportunity to emulate these programs, which benefit homeschooled students and school districts alike.”
“Critics frequently allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students,” said Coleman. “There is little evidence of this.” According to Coleman, homeschooled students who participate in athletics in their local public schools typically gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis. A 2012 survey of athletic associations in states that allow homeschooled students to participate in athletics at their local public schools found that this policy had not created problems for either students or schools.
“This is not about giving homeschooled students special treatment,” said Coleman. “It’s about opening new opportunities to a population that is currently underserved.”
In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. Survey respondents overwhelmingly believed that athletic participation was beneficial to homeschooled students (87%). Some respondents noted that athletics programs outside of public schools were limited, especially at later grades: “Once I reached junior high age there were no longer any community sports available,” wrote one participant; another noted that public school athletics programs “are very often the only access for students like myself who grew up in underprivileged areas.” Four in five respondents (80%) believed that public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students.
On homeschool access to curricular programs such as individual public school classes, Coleman points to the existence of a “homeschool math gap. “There is a large body of research that suggests homeschooled students underperform in math,” said Coleman. “Allowing homeschooling parents to enroll their children in individual math classes could help close that gap for individual students.” Coleman also points to the benefits of allowing homeschooled students to enroll in art classes, or in extracurriculars such as band.
“Homeschooled students and families benefit from positive relationships between homeschool communities and local public schools,” said Coleman. “HB 87 promised to improve these relations by offering homeschooled students access to resources while providing public schools with the funding to provide these resources. This was a win-win situation.”
“We urge West Virginia lawmakers pass HB 87 or a similar bill in the next legislative session,” said Coleman. “West Virginia’s homeschooled students need support, not dismissal.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.