Sometimes as legislators we have preconceived opinions and views on an issue, even before we begin initial discussions on a bill. However, as we sit and listen, sometimes for hours, we are presented with new information that we were not aware of about the issue. Then we attempt to decide what testimony is actually going to help solve a problem and what testimony is given for other reasons.
For several years I have listened to both sides of the issue of allowing home-schooled students to participate in high school athletics in the district where they live. I believe we should not discriminate against the home-schooled students by not allowing them to participate in varsity athletics.
This is why I was happy to see the Indiana House of Representatives vote in favor of House Bill 1399 on Monday. The bill, which I co-authored along with Rep. Tim Wesco, would allow students who do not attend an accredited public or private school to participate in IHSAA sports programs. Currently home schooled students in Indiana are not allowed to participate in IHSAA sanctioned athletics.
The parents of home-schooled students are paying taxes at the same rate as Hoosier parents of those attending public school, and they are not even using the other services of the public school.
They are not complaining. They are only asking for a small portion of what they are already paying for public education.
High school sports have a special place in the hearts of many Hoosiers and also have the opportunity to bring an entire community together. We see it almost every year when the stands are packed for high school sporting events with not only students and families, but also community members who take pride in their local school.
As a community, it is important we include all of our citizens and not discriminate, even for something as small as home school students being allowed to play high school sports.
Many prominent athletes at the college and professional level were home-schooled students who got an opportunity to play high school sports because of bills in other states similar to HB 1399.
While not every Hoosier home school student wanting to play high school sports will be the next Tim Tebow; that is not the goal of this bill, but high school sports teach adolescents more than just athletic skills. They teach life skills such as commitment, teamwork and perseverance. These are skills all students - even home school students - need to learn in school to graduate as well-rounded citizens. HB 1399 gives home school students this opportunity.
State Rep. Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) represents portions of Allen and DeKalb counties.