Wisconsin Bills Would End Homeschool Sports Gray Area

For Immediate Release: National alumni group is in favor of homeschool sports access

02/21/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit that advocates for homeschooled children, is encouraging Wisconsin lawmakers to support Assembly Bill 779 and Senate Bill 705; both would ensure homeschooled children and children enrolled in virtual charter school programs have access to public school athletics programs. “Access to public school athletics benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for public schools or for other students,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE.

In 2015, the legislature created Wisconsin Statute 118.133, which requires school districts to allow students enrolled in home-based educational programs to participate in interscholastic athletics in the school district on the same basis as other students. However, Governor Scott Walker vetoed a portion of the bill that would have required the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) to change its eligibility rules, which require student athletes to be enrolled full time at the public school they represent. Gov. Walker’s veto created a legal gray area, requiring school districts to allow homeschooled students to participate in district athletics programs but allowing the WIAA to continue barring homeschooled athletes from competing on public school teams participating in the interscholastic competitions the WIAA oversees. 

AB 779 and SB 705 would amend Wisconsin Statute 118.133 to allow virtual charter school students, in addition to students enrolled in home-based education programs, to participate in public school athletics programs. “A growing number of children are educated at home through virtual charter school programs,” says Coleman. “These students have needs similar to those of children homeschooled independently.” The bills would also eliminate the current legal gray area by requiring the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to change its eligibility rules to allow homeschooled children and virtual charter school students to participate in interscholastic activities by reinstituting the provision Gov. Walker vetoed in 2015. 

In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. Four in five respondents (80%) said public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students. 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.” 

“Children educated at home benefit from participating in public school athletics programs,” Coleman says. “We urge Wisconsin lawmakers to eliminate the current gray area and bring homeschooled children and school districts together by passing AB 779 and SB 705.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals. 

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