Submitted by NJ Assmeblmen Hal Wirths and Jay Weber
TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Education Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would allow all homeschooled students in New Jersey to participate in extracurricular activities in their hometown school districts.
Assemblymen Jay Webber and Hal Wirths are sponsoring the bill (A1041).
“This bill is really about fairness to all kids and families who choose to homeschool. Homeschooled kids deserve the same extracurricular opportunities their public-school peers get; their families certainly pay for those programs with their property tax dollars. Right now, some homeschoolers get to play ball or sing in the school musicals, and some don’t, depending on where they live. That disparity needs to end – all homeschooled kids deserve the same shot to flourish and develop their talents outside the classroom,” Webber (R-Morris) said. “Most states, including Pennsylvania, have laws like the one we’re advancing today, and New Jersey needs to catch up to them on this issue.”
The bill allows homeschoolers to try out for and participate in extracurricular activities in their home district. Like their public school counterparts, homeschoolers must provide proof of residence, meet academic and other eligibility requirements, and comply with all extracurricular activity policies and procedures. Currently, the law allows school districts to include or exclude homeschoolers at their discretion.
The bill stipulates that public school students who are ineligible to participate in sports cannot circumvent that ineligibility by becoming a homeschooled student.
Most famously, Florida changed its homeschool sports participation laws in 1996, opening the door for homeschooler Tim Tebow to not only play on his high school football team, but go on to the University of Florida and, as a sophomore, win the Heisman trophy. He played in the NFL and minor league baseball before retiring and shifting his focus to charity work. Former Miami Dolphin and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor was also homeschooled through high school, and has advocated for bills such as A1041.
Homeschooling spiked by as much as 63% during the recent COVID pandemic, and became especially prevalent in the Black community, where the US Census estimated that the percentage of homeschooling Black families increased by 500% because of the pandemic.
“These families made different educational choices for their children, but the kids shouldn’t be kept from sports and clubs, and possibly lose out on scholarships and opportunities for personal growth because of it,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “God knows we all pay more than our fair share in property taxes, most of which goes to fund for our public schools. Let these families get something to show for it.”