Politics

A state representative has pre-filed a bill that would allow home school and private school students to play sports in their local public school districts.

House Minority Caucus Chair Stan Lee, a Lexington Republican, calls the legislation the “Tim Tebow Bill,” named after the University of Florida Heisman Trophy winner and erstwhile NFL quarterback. Tebow was home schooled, but Florida law allowed him to play football at a local high school.

“If we truly want children in Kentucky to strive for success like Tim Tebow, then why not give parents the legal option of home schooling their children and allow their children to participate in sports in their local public school district?” Lee said. “I think parents should have the same freedom as half of all other states, which is why I’m filing this bill for the 2016 session.”

The bill would allow any student enrolled in a “nonpublic school” that “does not offer the interscholastic extracurricular activity” to register to play in sports programs offered by local, middle or high schools in their district. Students would have to meet standards that schools establish on matters including physical and academic requirements. Parents would be required to transport students to and from athletic events.

Similar versions of the bill have been brought up in recent years but were shot down amid pressure from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett opposes the legislation again this year, saying the proposal would “fundamentally alter high school athletics and erode the school-based model in our state.”

“It would allow all nonpublic school student-athletes to attend a nonpublic school … and yet compete for public schools at their discretion,” he said.

Tackett said private schools may be encouraged to disband their programs “for a variety of reasons” so students can play in public schools if the bill is approved.

“It is doubtful this was the author’s intent, but nonetheless, it is a very literal possibility,” Tackett said.

There are 26 states that currently have similar laws on the books.

The 2016 legislative session begins in January.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.