Democrats often harp about “choice” and “privilege,” but it always pertains to certain kinds of choice and privilege.
Take Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. This week he vetoed a bill which would have allowed homeschooled children to “play sports and otherwise participate in extracurricular activities at their local public schools.”
“Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements,” McAuliffe said.
But … homeschool families pay property (and other) taxes which directly fund public schools. If homeschooled students satisfy “eligibility requirements” (like sports physicals, etc.), what rationale could deny their participation?
Unsurprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be one.
Currently, 31 states have laws allowing homeschooled students to participate in public-school sports and other extracurricular activities. These are often called “Tim Tebow laws,” after the homeschooled Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback. In 1996, Tebow’s home state, Florida, became one of the first to let homeschooled kids participate in after-school activities.
Brenda Dickinson, an advocate and lobbyist, helped get Florida’s law passed. “If the school system is truly public, those children have every right to benefit from after-school clubs, sports, the marching band or anything else that’s offered,” she has said.
That’s not a view that everyone shares. In 2002, Daniel and Christy Jones of Marion County, W.Va., asked to let their eleven-year-old son Aaron join the Mannington Middle School wrestling team. When the state superintendent of schools denied their request, the Joneses sued and won. Rather than let Aaron simply join the wrestling team, school officials fought the ruling all the way to the state supreme court of appeals.
“The parents of home-schooled children have voluntarily chosen not to participate in the free public school system in order to educate their children at home,” wrote Justice Robin Jean Davis in a majority opinion overturning the lower court’s ruling that Aaron should be allowed to wrestle. “In making this choice, these parents have also chosen to forego the privileges incidental to a public education, one of which is the opportunity to qualify for participation in interscholastic athletics.”
As NRO’s Matthew Hennessey notes, “homeschoolers place no financial burden on the local public-education system.”
“No one ever mentions this particular privilege with regard to homeschoolers — the curious privilege of paying for a service you don’t use,” he adds.
However, in Virginia’s case, McAuliffe was the beneficiary of a vast amount of support from the Virginia Education Association during the 2013 gubernatorial campaign.
VEA president Meg Gruber had called a proposed constitutional amendment providing “equal resources” for homeschooled children a “reckless agenda that would be a major blow to public schools.”