Legislation sponsored by Senators Anthony Bucco and Steven Oroho requiring school districts to allow qualified charter, vocational and home-schooled students the chance to participate in district sports programs was advanced today by the Senate Education Committee. Currently, local school districts have varying policies on the matter.
“Children, regardless of ZIP code or school choice, should have equal opportunities to participate in publicly funded school athletics,” said Bucco (R-Morris). “This is a fairness issue that families in my district, Senator Oroho’s district and others across the state are trying to overcome. This legislation provides a common-sense solution.”
“School sports are an important and transformative part of many students’ lives,” said Oroho (Sussex, Warren, Morris). “The valuable life lessons, like the importance of teamwork, sacrifice and dedication, that I learned on my high school’s football field still have an impact to this day and are the same ones I passed on to students as a coach. This bill gives more children, and their parents who pay the same taxes as everyone else, that same opportunity to receive the many benefits of belonging to a team.”
The Senators’ bill, S3043, requires school districts to allow students living in the district who receive equivalent education other than at school, as well as those who attend charter or county vocational schools, to participate in the district’s sports programs in accordance with the same criteria established for students enrolled in the district.
“There have been some questions about this bill costing public school districts extra money,” Bucco noted. “But that’s not the case. Under this bill, parents or guardians will be responsible for any special transportation required for their children to participate in district sports.”
To be eligible students must reside in the district and meet all sports participation requirements of the district, such as age, physical examinations, and academic requirements. Home-school students must also demonstrate to the board of education they are receiving an academically equivalent education compared to students enrolled in the district. Charter and county vocational school students are only eligible to participate in sports programs not offered by their respective schools.