The two I'm going to address now are Senate Bills 55 and 34. These two bills are related. They seek to allow students living in a school district who are not enrolled in the school to join extracurricular activities at public schools.
SB 34 is specific to charter and virtual schooled students, and I really don't have much of an opinion about that. On one hand, students enrolled in GA charter and virtual schools are considered government schooled students and as such, somebody (school districts? charter schools? dunno) gets money because they count. If they count, then probably they ought to be able to play sports at government schools. On the other hand, if more kids playing extracurricular activities means property taxes will rise and/or a SPLOST will be more likely to carry, then nope! I don't really know the particulars about how charters and virtuals work, and as I'm morally opposed to the government running schools in any way shape or form (my money or not), I believe this entire issue isn't something that should be before the legislature in the first place.
SB 55 is pretty much the same thing--and my layman's reading of the bill reveals that it's limited to public schooled students:
27 (1) 'Nonenrolled public school student' means a public school student in grades
28 kindergarten through 12 who resides within the attendance zone of a school but who is
29 not enrolled in such school.
Okay, my kids are not public school students who are not enrolled in their local school. They are home study students in compliance with the home study laws of Georgia. And there's nothing else in the bill about private schooled or home study students. So when I saw this bill I didn't think twice about it.
Until I saw two blog posts on the AJC education blog called Get Schooled. Maureen Downey, the author of the blog, talked to some of the people involved in this legislation and it is somewhat alarming:
But when I called Senate sponsor Renee Unterman’s office for clarification of what seems duplicate intent to me, I was told the bill applies to “any student residing that district.” I asked if that meant homeschooled or private school students, and Unterman’s aide said that it did. That doesn’t sound right to me based on the language of the bill, so I asked the aide to doublecheck and get back to me. When I get the clarification, I will post.
From "Second bill opens public school clubs, teams to outside students" (my emphasis)
Later she asked one of the sponsors of the bill who confirmed that his intention at least is to open up this legislation for private and home study students:
Were the bills designed to let any children, whether enrolled in private, charter, magnet or homeschooled, to join after-school clubs and teams at the local public school?
As far as SB 55, Sen. Shafer said that he signed on because the bill “would allow home and private school kids to participate in public school extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities are subsidized by the taxpayers in that they make use of school buildings, practice fields, stadiums, etc. Obviously, if there are dues or fees associated with the extracurricular activities, the home or private school child should have to pay them the same as a public school student.
“Coaches are sometimes paid extra, but you are right that many school teachers volunteer their time to sponsor or advise clubs. I am not sure why the volunteer teachers would not welcome other students from the community the school was set up to serve. I am convinced that the students from various educational backgrounds benefit from the interaction with each other, and I am little surprised you do not see that as a major benefit. It may even be an evangelical opportunity to bring the home and private school children back into the public schools.”
From "Value in non students joining public school teams, clubs?" (italics in original, bold is my emphasis)
Not being a legislator or legal mind of any sort, I don't quite see how you get from "public school student not enrolled" to "home and private schools." I guess I don't really care, though. It's enough for me to know that at least one of the sponsors of this bill is thinking about us.
Which brings me to my point: I will absolutely and always oppose any bill that is designed to create opportunities for homeschooled students in the public schools. Why? The short answer is because I don't trust them for a second.
Any mingling of homeschooled kids and government schools will necessarily bring them under the purview of the government. Once in the system, the government will want to keep them in the system. Even Shafer above admits this when he says:
"It may even be an evangelical opportunity to bring the home and private school children back into the public schools.”
He thinks that the government schools want us back. Maybe they do.
Part of the reason I homeschool is so that my kids are OUT of the government school system. Even the minimal reporting we must do in Georgia is bad enough, but beyond saying that we're homeschooling and completing "attendance" reports, we are not subject to the school district rules or textbooks or curriculum or calendar or other nonsensical things.
Ah, but we're taxpayers, right? Shouldn't we try to at least get something for our money? I hear this a lot, too. Even my new friend Senator Shafer mentions it:
"Extracurricular activities are subsidized by the taxpayers in that they make use of school buildings, practice fields, stadiums, etc."
I think that viewing the taxpayer-government school relationship as a normal free business relationship is a huge mistake, and obfuscates the fact that this money is forcibly taken from us and redistributed according to the desires of others (government officials).
When you enter into a free business transaction, you are exchanging money for the product or service. You do get something for your money, and you have every right to expect it. If you don't like the quality or type of product/service, you get to choose another business to work with. You even get to take legal action against a business if you don't get the something for your money.
The government doesn't work that way. If there were no government schools, you would be free to pay for whatever school you liked--and if the school didn't deliver on its service obligations, you could pull your kids out and go to another school. Parents of kids in government school don't get to do that. There's no free transaction here--your money is taken and your kids go where the government officials tell them.
There's no exchange of services for money, for if there were, what service did I get in exchange for the money taken from me way back in the days before I had kids? I got no service at all, nor did I have the right to demand anything in return. Neither do any of my childless neighbors. Just because I went and had three kids doesn't now give me the right to demand anything of the government--and even if I did, I sincerely doubt it could provide the level of service I'd want, so I still wouldn't be getting enough in exchange for my money.
The point is this--as taxpayers we have no choice or say in this at all. If we pretend that we do by buying into this idea of "well, we might as well get something for our money" then we are only helping the government school officials. Let's not make their jobs any easier. Let's not help them pretend that they are providing us with a service in the same way the dry cleaner or the auto mechanic does. Let's not give them any sanction whatsoever.
Sadly, opposing these bills on moral grounds will probably do nothing to convince our legislators of their (perhaps well-intended) errors. Luckily, with counties and the state facing falling property tax "revenues" (I use that term loosely) due to the housing bust, overcrowding of classrooms, testing scandals, etc. there is one compelling argument that the legislators will listen to: supposedly there is not enough money already for the kids in government schools--why add in more kids? (I intend to make a moral case for opposing the bill, but I will certainly mention the budget crunch, too.)
The other good thing is that government school parents are probably not going to be thrilled about this either, so I think the bill will be fought from both sides.
If you live in Georgia, please take a couple of minutes to let your state representatives (especially your senator) know what you think about these bills. If you're not in Georgia, why not take a few minutes to see what YOUR state legislators are up to?