A bill in the Missouri House would let home-schooled students participate in public high school sports and activities.
State Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) presented HB 232 that would allow home-schooled students with passing grades to participate in Missouri State High School Activities Association programs. Haahr proposed the same bill last year, but it did not make it out of the House.
“What this bill does is bring Missouri in line with the majority of states in the country to allow home-school students to try out for and potentially participate in the athletics for their local public-schools in the district within which they live,” said Haahr. “We are not requiring that they participate, we are asking that they be allowed to try out. They would have to compete for the teams just like any other student.”
Haahr, who was home-schooled, grew up playing on sports teams in Springfield, but it was through a city league, never against public-school teams. Haahr says home-schooled kids drove hours just to play on his teams in Springfield and opportunities for scholarships were rare.
“We were able to put together teams, I didn’t feel necessarily like I was missing out, but my friends from the rural areas obviously faced a much greater burden than I did,” said Haahr.
12-year-old Isaiah Craft is a home-school student in sixth grade who would like to play football one day for Eureka high school.
“I came today to testify because I like football, but I don’t do the best in a classroom because I have Tourette’s and OCD,” said Isaiah. “So, I just find it easier and I enjoy it more at home.”
Isaiah’s father Ryan Craft also testified in support of the bill.
“If they change the law, then he would have potential opportunities, be able to, you know, maybe be good enough to play in college and get scholarship money, or beyond even, who knows?” said Ryan. “But, what is troubling is the way it is now, it’s just the wall is there, there’s no option, and it’s just kind of a dead end.”
MSHSAA Lobbyist Mike Lodewegen says the Association is concerned about the standards it sets for students.
“While the bill attempts to address several issues, it leaves open wide holes for students that would not have to meet the very high standards that are set by public schools in order to participate in the privilege of after-school activities,” said Lodewegen.
MSHSAA is a quasi-public and private organization that receives funding from taxpayer dollars. Supporters of the bill argued that they pay taxes that go towards public-schools, but their children cannot partake in public high school sports and activities.
The committee has not voted on the bill.