"Legislation to allow home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public schools passed the Republican-controlled Virginia Assembly on Wednesday," writes the NYT as it sets up a debate — there are 7 commentators — under the topic "Should Home-Schoolers Play for High School Teams?" I guess since a "Republican-controlled" legislative house voted for it, the NYT had to phrase the question as if the presumption was against letting these kids play, but it was hard for me — without reading the essays — to think of any reason not to let the kids play. After all, their parents pay taxes, and by home schooling, they are saving the school districts money.
Ken Tilley, executive director of the Virginia High School League, contends that "participation in school activities is a not a right, it's a privilege." To win the privilege, the kids who go to a school have to meet various requirements, some of which, like GPA and passing X number of subjects, don't align with anything the home-schooled kid can meet. Tilley also notes that there are sports programs for home-schooled kids, and we shouldn't let the best home-schooled athletes opt to play on regular school teams, because "we should be helping [those programs], not poaching from them." Poaching from them? We're talking about a human being making a choice about where to play. Tilley is picturing the action from the perspective of the people who run the teams, and — if you wake up that dying metaphor poaching — he's analogizing the student athlete to an animal that might be stolen from its proper owner.
Lawprof Michael McCann cites the argument — which he finds "unpersuasive" — that there's something wrong with a high school having a team with too many home-schoolers. If the coaches pick the best players, it might turn out that the teams are full of kids who don't go to the school. Is that a problem? Robert Ferraro, founder and chief executive officer of the National High School Coaches Association, suggests that there be a rule that the home-schoolers can only play on teams at the school that they'd attend if they weren't home-schooled.
Ferraro's suggestion sheds some light on the "poaching" issue. There could be some abuse if coaches could roam about looking for the best home-schooled athletes, and excellent athletes might choose home-schooling for the specific purpose of being able to participate as free agents in a market that could get very aggressive and that could hurt a lot of kids (and parents) who dream about sports achievement — Tim Tebow! — and undervalue schoolwork.