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Sports bill advances for students of virtual charter schools

INDIANAPOLIS – The House Education Committee on Tuesday cleared the way for Hoosier students attending a virtual charter school to play sports at their local public high school.

House Bill 1047 initially would have affected all high school students who attend a charter school.

There are about 36 charter schools in the state that have at least one high school grade. Three other charter high schools are members of the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said the change to focus only on virtual charters that have no buildings or facilities was a “good compromise for now.”

Mark Palmer, lobbyist for the IHSAA, appreciated narrowing the bill, which he said would have forced schools to let charter students try out for teams.

He noted that the association now has a rule allowing home-school students to play sports at the local public school but they must have been home schooled for three years first.

“We are very concerned about school jumping and free agency,” Palmer said.

He said he didn’t want the bill to be used to allow kids to avoid an unpleasant situation and then immediately play for schools they rejected.

Caryl Auslander, a lobbyist for the Indiana Connections Academy, spoke in support of the legislation on behalf of students at the virtual school who want to play sports.

She pointed out the parents pay property taxes to support the local athletic facilities.

John O’Neal, lobbyist for the Indiana State Teachers Association, said he understood the intent behind the bill but is concerned about certain elements.

“What we don’t want to see is picking and choosing – enrolling in one school and then taking services from other institutions,” he said.

Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, voted against the bill, saying in life we don’t get to make choices cafeteria style. He said parents choose a charter or other school knowing sports will be affected.

He said that if his child attended every clinic and practice at his public school and then got cut for a child that is never even at the school he would be upset as a parent.

“For every winner, there’s a loser,” Battles said.

The legislation, which passed 7-2, now moves to the full House for consideration.