Take a look at Senate Bill 55 and Senate Bill 34, both of which require public schools to allow children who are not enrolled to participate in extracurricular activities.
I understand the impetus and the impulse, but at some point, don’t schools have the right to ask: How much more can we do?
Schools can barely meet the needs of their own students, and now Sen. Chip Rogers and the Georgia Senate want them to open their doors to non students?
These bills would mandate access to all after-school clubs, sports and programs to students outside of the school. (Neither bill speaks to private school students yet, but that is probably soon to come.)
Consider that many after-school activities are financed by parent fund-raising and staffed by the parents themselves. Some after-school clubs depend on teacher volunteers. There is little taxpayer money going into most after-school activities.
How can the Senate mandate that these volunteer parents and teachers accept kids from outside the school community?
It is one thing to allow homeschoolers or students from other schools to come into programs that are underwritten by fees, as long as there’s room. But these bills speak to all extracurriculars, many of which are purely powered by volunteers.
SB 34 states: A public school shall allow any nonenrolled student to participate in any extracurricular activity offered or conducted by such public school outside of regular school hours in the same manner as any student currently enrolled at such public school. ‘Nonenrolled student’ means a student enrolled in a charter school or a virtual school
who resides within the attendance zone of a public school but who is not enrolled in such school.
SB 55 just dropped this afternoon and is not yet posted on the state web site. It also deals with extracurriculars, but addresses homeschoolers rather than students from charters or virtual schools.
Beyond the financial implications, these bills raise safety and logistical concerns. An influx of kids from outside the building into clubs, sports or after-school jazz bands or strings groups requires someone to manage both arrival and departure and the communications. My own twins learn most updates on their club meetings and sports via the school announcements.
I am sure that homeschooling parents will argue that they are paying taxes and thus should be able to treat public school offerings as a buffet line, picking the activities that suit their kids. In some cases, that may be a good idea. For example, there’s a growing trend of homeschooled students attending one or two courses a day at their local schools. I understand and endorse that concept because tax dollars are paying for those courses.
But very little tax money goes into most after-school program. It takes silent auctions, bake sales and wrapping paper sales to support many of them.
Should the Senate be able to mandate that schools open all their extracurricular activities to non students?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog.