For Immediate Release: Access to Public School Athletics Improves Homeschool Outcomes
Canton, Ma., 2/16/16—Last year, two bills before the state legislature would have opened public school athletics to participation by homeschooled students. These bills, Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175, which have been carried over into the 2016 legislative session, would prohibit school districts from barring homeschoolers from interscholastic sports and thus requiring the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to open the door to these students. “Our research is clear—access to public school extracurriculars offers tangible benefits to homeschooled students,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the alumni-run Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “It’s time to give New York’s homeschooled students access to public school athletics.”
Participation in public school athletics and other extracurriculars has been found to have pronounced benefits for children’s socialization, self-esteem, and leadership skills across the board. A recent study of homeschool alumni in particular found that those who participated in public school athletics rated their homeschooling experience more highly than did other respondents. Further, researcher Joseph Richard Barno found that college admissions officers weighted extracurriculars more heavily for homeschool graduates than for traditionally-schooled graduates, suggesting that extracurricular participation is especially important for homeschooled students who are college-bound. “Excluding homeschooled children from this important aspect of physical and personal development puts them at a profound disadvantage with respect to their peers,” Coleman said.
New York’s Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175 are part of an ongoing trend toward increasing homeschooled students’ access to extracurriculars in their local public schools. Over half of all states provide homeschooled students some form of participation in athletics or other extracurriculars through their local public schools, and that number is growing. Many states also allow homeschooled students to take individual courses at their local public schools. In fact, in 2007, the most recent year for which we have data, 16% of homeschooled students were enrolled in school part time. “Cooperation between homeschoolers and local school districts benefits homeschooled students,” said Coleman. “When public schools provide homeschooled students with access to curricular and extracurricular activities, they foster a positive relationship between public schools and homeschool families.”
Homeschoolers in New York, including LEAH, the largest statewide homeschool organization, supported Assembly Bill 3678 and Senate Bill 2175 during the 2015 legislative session. Gina Varrichio, a homeschooling mother, created a website, Let Homeschoolers Play, and launched a petition to bring the bills to the floor. “The overarching aim of our public school system should be to educate the minds, exercise the bodies, and open the hearts of our children and our communities,” wrote Varrichio. “The goal should be one of supporting as many children as we can in this mission, not the fewest we’re legally allowed.”
Critics argue that granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics creates problems in fairness and access for other students. However, the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers conducted a 2012 survey of state athletics associations which found that granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics has not caused problems in those states that have already done so. Critics also point to the variety of community athletic leagues available to younger children, but these options tend to narrow as children grow older, forcing parents to choose between homeschooling and athletic participation. “The evidence is clear that granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “It’s time to let these children play.”
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.