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Missouri homeschoolers may get more access to public schools

Missouri state Sen. Ben Brown of Washington has pre-filed a bill that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school activities. It has been coupled with provisions rolling back state oversight of homeschooling families.

“As a former athlete myself whose childhood was greatly impacted by my participation in the sport of wrestling, I feel strongly that it is wrong to deny these potentially lifechanging opportunities to children,” Brown told the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee during hearing in the last legislative session.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association’s policy is to allow homeschooled students to participate in their local school districts’ sports if they are enrolled in at least one credit hour of instruction, which typically is two classes in non-block-scheduled schools. School districts are allowed to be more restrictive and ban homeschool participation. Brown’s bill would prohibit schools from requiring enrollment in classes, but any instruction or training required for the club or sport still would be allowed.

The bill would remove a section of state law that says families “may provide … a declaration of enrollment stating their intent for the child to attend a home school” to the local school district or the county recorder of deeds. The bill also would rescind a law allowing attendance officers to investigate compliance with the state’s compulsory attendance law. The law requires home schools to offer at least 1,000 hours of instruction, with at least 600 of those in core subjects such as reading and math.

Homeschooling families have different reactions to the idea of their kids in public-school sports and clubs. Some value the privacy of being detached from the school district, while others desire access to the amenities their tax dollars help pay for. Brown’s bill could help alleviate some homeschooling families’ privacy concerns, said Zeke Spieker, legislative assistant to Sen. Jill Carter, a Republican from Granby.

“There’s always a concern that when you give school students access to these activities that there are going to be some strings attached that would cause a loss of homeschool freedom,” he told the Springfield News-Leader. “So last year, in an effort to try to assuage some of those concerns, they created the FLEX category.”

Brown’s bill calls for the defining of “FLEX schools,” or family-led educational experience schools. The differences between FLEX students and homeschool students are that FLEX students can participate in public school activities and obtain K-12 scholarships through the state’s MOScholars tax-credit program.

–Alan Goforth | MV

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