Could teams of home-school students soon compete against other Kentucky schools?

State Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, presented House Bill 290 on Tuesday, which would allow home school sports teams to compete against teams that are members of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
State Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, presented House Bill 290 on Tuesday, which would allow home school sports teams to compete against teams that are members of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Legislative Research Commission

Kentucky home-school student teams and in some cases individual athletes would be able to play interscholastic sports against Kentucky High School Athletic Association school teams under a bill approved Tuesday by the House Education Committee.

House Bill 290 is different from legislation that failed in 2017 and in previous years in the General Assembly. That legislation would have allowed home-schoolers to play for their district-assigned school or a school they chose under an open enrollment policy.

The new bill, House Bill 290, would allow “at-home private school students” and teams to play against school-based teams in interscholastic athletics overseen by the KHSAA, but would not allow them to compete in conferences and tournaments. KHSAA member schools would not be forced to play home-school teams. They would only schedule games if they wanted too. Mostly home-school teams would play against school teams, but in the case of tennis or golf, individual students might compete, Carney said.

The bill has the support of KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett, who this week worked on revisions with sponsor House Education Chairman John Carney before the bill was approved on Tuesday.

“From our reading, the bill would give competition opportunities for home-school students against our member schools without impacting our member schools and their postseason competition,” Tackett told the Herald-Leader. Tackett told lawmakers that the KHSAA had been working for years to “find a workable path that didn’t intrude on either our schools or the home schools and their basic structure and this appears to follow that path..”

“This has been an issue for several years about home-school athletics,” said Carney, R-Campbellsville. “ I really believe that this is a way we can approach this that can meet the needs of everyone involved.... and allow all students in Kentucky to take part in extra-curricular activities.”

Home-school students could not get a recognition, award, or championship sponsored by the state board or the KHSAA, the agency designated by the state board to manage interscholastic athletics.

Carney said he understands the position of traditional public school advocates who are concerned that allowing home-school students to compete with public school students could lead to recruiting problems. He said he also understands the position of home-school parents who pay school taxes and want their high school children to be able to play athletics.

Gavin Duerson of Lexington told committee members that he and his wife home-school their five children and he coaches home-school teams. Duerson said middle school home-school teams have been competing against some public school students, but high school students are having to travel to other states.

“I’ve been exposed to the robust home-schooling sporting opportunities available in neighboring states as we often have to travel out of state to find competitive games,” said Duerson. “Grass-root efforts have caused home-school student athletes to flourish in most all sports, not only individual sports, but even in team sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball” in other states because they have the freedom to compete against school-based athletic teams.

Duerson said the bill would allow thousands more students in Kentucky to play sports. He said there were more than 10 home-school athletic programs in Kentucky.

Under the bill, a home school’s team and students would have to comply with rules for student athletes, including rules concerning age, school semesters and scholarships. Their coaches would have to meet specific certification qualifications.

Last-minute technical revisions to the bill on Tuesday included expanding the types of sports home-schooled students could play — those sanctioned by KHSAA. Clarifications also made sure the bill would not apply to private schools that aren’t members of the KHSAA, Tackett said.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill during the House Education Committee meeting. House Bill 290 now goes to the full House.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears