Public school sports open to all students under new bill
     2015-01-29      By Annie Bohling - Nebraska News Service   
LINCOLN—Home schooled and other students in Nebraska could be on public schools’ sports teams if LB103 is passed.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Bill Kintner of Omaha on Jan. 8, is essentially an extension of an existing law, which allows students in private, denominational or parochial schools to be part-time students in public schools within their district. Under LB103, those students could also take part in the public schools’ extracurricular activities, like sports teams.

“I did cross country and track in college and from that I gained relationships that I will cherish forever,” said Spencer Finley, an Omaha home schooling parent speaking in favor of the bill. “But sports in college were only possible because I did sports in high school first.”

Charity Baker, an Elmwood home schooling mother for 17 years, was another proponent speaking on the bill at the public hearing on Jan. 20.

Baker said extracurricular activities are available for home-schooled students—basketball, debate and flag football—but the fee for each is $250 to $600.

“Plus, the drive for me to the site of the activities is 45 minutes,” Baker said. “And some of the tournaments are for entire weekends in Kansas, so that means hotel costs and additional fees.”
Baker said the bill would benefit home schooling parents who purchase their own curriculum for the subjects they teach. Allowing their child to take a class at a public school would save parents and teachers like Baker money.

“The bill would also benefit public schools,” Baker said. “They would receive more funds and could do better in athletics because more students would be contributing.”
Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee, which held the hearing, were curious about socialization of home schooled students.
Tomeka Walker, a supporter of the bill and an Elkhorn home schooling mother of three, answered.

“One of the misnomers about the home schooling method of education is that home schooled kids don’t get the socialization necessary,” Walker said. “This is not as much of an issue these days as opposed to several years ago where, for example, home schooled kids were on a farm with no one else around.”

Walker said her children play with others in the neighborhood, which helps build their social skills.

Two people testified in opposition to the bill, Rhonda Blanford-Green, executive director of Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), and Brian Maher, the Kearney- based District IV NSAA director. Home schooled students and others pay money to play sports through NSAA.

Contact Annie Bohling at nns.abohling@gmail.com

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