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  • Writer's pictureCindy Nicolai

ALERT: Why We Oppose HB3293 Equal Access Bill

While the author of any bill can make it as benign as possible now, there are no guarantees that it won't evolve into something invasive and burdensome in years to come. We don't know what kind of eligibility rules and policies will be required, as you can read, that is up to each school district. There will be no standard policy across the state because each school district operates independently. However, if you continue reading, you will see that there will be a push from public school educators and administration for state regulation of homeschoolers before eligibility can be determined. Once a school has one or two of your children in their system will it give them cause to find an excuse to pull the rest in as well? HSLDA has warned us of other states in which this very thing does happen.

One State Rep did make a valid point in that we cannot live in fear of the what-ifs. However, there is a difference in living in fear and walking in wisdom or being wise as serpents in avoiding any possible threat to our freedom to educate by other means.

Besides the possible regulation issues, HB3293 raises many more questions than it has answers. Below are just a few with comments from CHEA and HSLDA:

Section 2 of this bill states, "Is educated at home using the same curriculum or a curriculum comparable to that used by the local school district;"

First of all, the phrase, "educated at home" can mean a variety of situations. Does this mean those educating by other means, private school at home, or public school at home? Exactly what does, 'educated at home' mean? Just because someone is educated at home does not meant they are parent led and privately funded families educating by other means. This is a broad statement which could put true constitutional home educators into a category in which we do not want to be included.

HSLDA agrees and stated, "Due to the language, educated at home, this would put virtual public school students and those being "educated by other means" (i.e. private homeschool students) in the same category. Both would potentially be able to participate in extracurricular activities."

Curriculum? Is this something you really want your local school controlling? Why did you begin your home education journey? Many do it because they do not want the public school curriculum being the influence in their children's lives. If I am going to have to use the same curriculum as the PS just to be in their sports or other extra-curriculuar activities, then why am I homeschooling? Why not just send my kids to public school and not put every other family educating by other means at risk?

And, if I can use something "comprable" what does that mean? Who decides what is comprable. That statement indicates that someone within the public education system is going to be the one to determine what is comprable and will monitor that regularly. Do you want them in your business? The author of the bill suggested that the DoE choose three curriculums that would be approved for use and those wanting to participate would be forced to use one of those curriculum. If they can do it for a few, it is the camel's nose under the tent to implement it for every family who is educating by other means.

HSLDA stated, "For any who is not using the same curriculum at their local school district their curriculum would have to be reviewed by local school officials. There is no standard given so this review would be entirely subjective. Local school officials could review with any criteria they wanted. Because the review is entirely subjective, what might be deemed "comparable" in one district could be deemed to be inadequate in another. This standard would lead to wildly varying standards across the state."

Next, let's look at Section 3. "Meets the applicable age and academic requirements for participation in extracurricular activities, as verified by the local school and any requirements of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, if the local school is a member;"

Now, this sounds harmless. But, do you know what it means? Registration. You will be required to register and be entered into the school data mining which will then track your child to at least the age of 21. The only way to verify these "requirements" is to give the local school your child's information, and rightly so. But is it something you really want to do?

In reading through the entire 35 pages of Rules Governing Interscholastic Activities in Secondary Schools, what I found is that this bill is really doing nothing more than stating that as long as a student meets OSSAA requirements, he/she can participate in local school activities. Why are we wasting time and money trying to pass into law a policy which is already in place. We don't need another law on the books for this purpose. It is unnecessary. The first requirement of the OSSAA in general is a physical exam (which you pay for) and a parental consent certificate both of which have to be completed yearly. It also requires enrollment in the public school district where you reside. The first academic requirement is that you are passing five classes which must be from a state accredited school and count toward the state graduation requirements. Last time I checked, those educated by other means were not accredited by the state. So basically, you become a public school student. The rules go on with much more detail as to how many weeks you have to wait if you are a first time enrolee, transfer student, etc... which indicates that even if you jump through their hoops, you may have to wait a whole year before being eligible to actually participate in any activity, sports or otherwise.

HSLDA's explanation agrees that these requirements, including enrollment in the public school system will be implemented in order to participate.

"Any student wishing to participate in extracurricular activities would need to have their age and academic eligibility verified by the local school district. Students in grades 7-12 would also have to have meet the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association requirements, unless the school was not a member of OSSAA. a) Proof of age would be required; b) A review of the students academic progress would also have to be verified by the local school district. Again, this appears that it would be a subjective review and could vary wildly from school district to school district. c) According to OSAA requirements, the student must be passing at least 5 subjects that count towards graduation to be eligible. d) OSAA also requires all students to be " a member school in courses, activities, or alternative programs in which credits are being earned" in order to participate in extracurricular activities. Since the bill only prohibits students from being denied the ability to participate because they are not full-time enrolled, a student who wants to participate in extracurricular activities would have to be enrolled part-time in the local public school. According to current OSAA rules, the student would need to be enrolled in a course, activity, or alternative program "in which credits are being earned." e) OSAA also requires daily attendance so a student educated at home would likely need to verify daily attendance in order to be eligible to participate."

Sections 4 and 5 get really interesting. "Submits an immunization record to such school district in accordance with Section 1210.191 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes; and Submits proof of health insurance if required by the board of education of the school district."

This is something very sensitive to many homeschool families. Vaccinations are a choice, not a requirement but if you want your child to be invovled in public school sports, then you WILL show proof of the required immunizations. Then, it goes a step further. You will have to provide more personal information in the form of proof of your health insurance if the local district in which you reside asks for it.

Is it really any of their business and is it worth jumping through all their hoops for the sake of an activity? And, taking it one step further, is it worth exposing other familes (who do not want to participate in the OSSAA activities) to the camel's head? A bill cannot be written for a small handful of people without it affecting the entire community.

What did HSLDA say? "In order to participate, the student would have to submit an immunization record to the school district. Each board of education could require a student to submit proof of health insurance in order to participate in the extracurricular activity."

Section C states, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a student to participate in any activity if such student is otherwise prohibited from participating for any reason other than full-time enrollment, including, but not limited to, prohibitions based on truancy, discipline, or ineligibility pursuant to the Education Open Transfer Act."

First of all, they once again are just restating what is already written in the OSSAA rules. Why are we taking the policy of an organization and trying to put it into a law with much greater long-term consequences? Regardless, what does that section mean? Well, this is where eligibility is determined. They will need grades, attendance, if you have any discipline issues, etc...yes, from you, the parent or even worse, they will have someone assigned to make these determinations for you. Someone within the public school system will have to make sure you are keeping attendance records, grades, if you have discipline issues, and whatever else they may want to determine eligibility. Notice, it says, 'but not limited to' which gives free range to make their determinations. Again, is it worth it?

HSLDA interprets this as meaing,"A student could be prohibited from participating if there are any truancy or discipline issues." In addition, "Due to language in the bill, it appears that a student could participate in a school district that is not their resident school district as long as they eligible to enroll in that district pursuant to the Education Open Transfer Act. This would also likely require part-time enroll in the school and have the student take a class or classes in the school."

Section D is pretty self-explanatory, "To the extent any participation fees are required to be paid by a student participating in an activity, the same fees shall be paid by any student participating in such activity despite not attending a school in such school district on a full-time basis."

You will have pay any fees reqiured to participate and rightly so.

HSLDA agrees by stating, "Activities fees are required on the same basis as a full-time student."

Section E is going to be a little hard for some schools to swallow. "Any liability insurance obtained by a school district that provides coverage of students participating in activities offered by such school district shall also cover any student who participates in such activities despite not attending school in such school district on a full-time basis."

What this is saying is that even the school will have to pay liability insurance for you to participate in their activity. This is a very sore spot with most educational institututions. Let me see, you don't want to be in our school, use our curriculum, or have our influence on your child but you want us to cover you with our insurance? I wonder how long that will last? Even though this bill does not mention it specifically, through the OSSAA requirements, I can easily see enrollment into the public school being required. Remember, nothing is ever FREE.

Section F. Now, for the icing on the cake. The author of this bill contacted the State Dept. of Education and indicated that they (the DoE) were all for this bill. Well, I wonder why? Here is the last section of bill, "The State Board of Education shall promulgate rules to implement the provisions of this section."

Notice the word SHALL? That means that not only CAN they make up any other rules they want to implement into this bill, but they are required to do so. Right here is where the camel can barge full-blown into the tent. We have no idea what those rules might be. This little statement gives the DoE full access to do anything they want, which could include forcing all home educated students to follow the same rules as those wanting to participate in the extra curricular activities. This means policy. Some policy or rule will have to be written within the DoE to make this happen. Funny thing is, the DoE has abslutley no governing power over the OSSAA or extra curricular activities within the public school system. It is all regulated through the OSSAA. So why involve the DoE if control over the homeschool community is not at least a small purpose of this bill. Does the author of this bill have any thoughts as to what these "rules" might be?

HSLDA interpretation, "The Oklahoma State Board of Education will be required to promulgate rules to implement the participation in extracurricular activities. It is unknown what those rules would be."

In addition, any of these aticles within this bill can at any time place a nose under the tent into the entire home education community. As one Senator told us two years ago when we fought a similar bill, "We can regulate you (the constitutional home educator) any time we want without an equal access bill, this just opens the door to make it easier." If you read on our Why We Oppose Equal Access page, you will see quotes from educators and coaches stating that overall regulation and accountability would not be out of the question.

But, they can't do that! Right? It is written into our Constitution that we have the right to educate our children by other means. Yes, it does, but it does not say that we cannot be regulated in the process. Legislation and policy are two separate things and we at CHEA work just as hard to stop regulation through policy as we do through legislation.

For more information about 3293 and how you can help, visit our Webpage.

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