I exchanged e-mails with Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, one of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 55, and asked if I could share his explanation of why he sees a need for this legislation.
SB 55 is one of two bills — SB 34 is the other – that open public school after-school extracurriculars to children who don’t attend the school. However, I wasn’t clear which kids each of these similar bills was representing. (See earlier blogs for background. This one is about 55. This one is about 34.)
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.”
When I asked the senator about the burden put on public schools to sort through this and manage a flow of outside children every day, he responded:
“As to the burden on public schools, I see the issue a little differently than you. Parents who homeschool their children or send them to private school free up millions of tax dollars to be spent on the children who remain in public school, reducing class size and making more money available for teacher salaries. Why should these children should be “punished” by denying them access to extracurricular activities that their parents’ tax dollars help finance? Also, I think you are overlooking the value of children who attend public schools, private schools and home schools interacting with each other in these programs.”
Sen. Shafer’s comments clarify the rationale behind the bills, although I still expect fierce debate and still think that the logistics will weigh on already overwhelmed public schools.
At the Michelle Rhee event Thursday at the Capitol, I spoke briefly about the philosophy of SB 55 and 34 with the House Education Chair Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, who shared my concerns that this was a lot to put on schools. He asked why students in charters and magnets can’t have their own clubs and teams. It’s a valid point as many charters pride themselves on their after-school offerings.
Chairman Coleman also said that homeschoolers have not been enthused about this sort of legislation, telling him that they are not interested in signing up their kids for public school activities.
Then, I guess the question becomes: Who wants these bills?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog. (Folks, I am gone next week and will be without a computer so please soldier on without me, and please keep it civil.)