Are we in Tennessee serious about improving education for all Tennessee children or only for those who can muster enough political backing?

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), which administers middle and high school sports, recently ruled on a set of guidelines encouraging, but not requiring, member schools to allow homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics beginning in the 2011-12 academic year.  Further information about all the details and guidelines of the ruling are available Here.

Since the ruling there have been numerous articles concerning the controversy created by this ruling.  Such as, current public school parents fearing their child will have to compete and possibly fail to gain a slot on a team due to a home school student and the exclusionist attitudes of some parents and even board members, such as Thomas Deakins, a Knox County school board member, who feel, if home school parents and students “decide you’re not going to be in public schools, you’re giving up the extracurricular activities associated with public schools as well.”

Do we as Tennesseans want to provide the best overall education for every Tennessee child using any and all of our resources or are we going to divide up into our little groups and sacrifice the educational needs of a child for some misplaced elitist protectionist, us-them mentality?

There is no reason beyond petty, selfish, small-minded, meanness to deny a home school child to benefit from any part of the public education system that fills a need that child has.  The parents pay taxes and any federal taxes are nominal on a per student basis.  Further, the guidelines the TSSAA set up should ensure fairness and dislodge fears parents and others may have.  If a problem arises it can be addressed.

There was an excellent opinion piece by Claiborne Thornton, president of the Tennessee Home Education Association concerning this ruling.  It is available to read in full Here, but we are going to paste a few of her more pertinent points.

For some [home school students], college scholarships hinge on post-season tournament play. For most, especially those in rural areas, it is a matter of education, both mental and physical education, being close to home.

TSSAA’s rule change a couple of years ago allows member teams to compete against home-school teams, excluding post-season play. That seems to be working.

Home schoolers living in large metropolitan areas already have choices of home-school teams and leagues with national tournaments in basketball, soccer, archery, swimming, baseball, but these volunteer associations provide little help to remote, rural home-school families.

In Florida, the “Tim Tebow” rule applied statewide has brought 20 home-school students into public school teams, so the option is not frequently used.

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