Act Now to Oppose Legislation to Allow Homeschoolers to Participate in Public School Sports

Legislation that would undermine our homeschooling freedoms is now included in the Budget Bill that is before the Wisconsin Legislature.

One provision would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports. This would, for the first time in Wisconsin history, allow public schools to determine whether homeschools meet public school standards. Here are reasons WPA opposes this legislation.

Another provision would undermine the validity of homeschool diplomas.

Actions:
• Sign WPA’s petitions that (1) oppose legislation to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and (2) WPA’s petition on diplomas.
• Ask others to sign the petitions.
Contact several Wisconsin legislators and ask them to remove these provisions from the Budget Bill.

Collect Signatures on WPA Petitions

June 9, 2015 — Petitions on Sports and Diplomas Delivered to Leaders of Wisconsin Legislature

Thank you to those who signed the petitions on sports and diplomas.

On Monday, June 8, 2015, an impressive 1,139 signatures on the sports petition and 1,044 on the diploma petition were delivered by WPA’s Executive Director and a Member of the WPA Board to key leaders in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin State Senate. Overall, the reception was positive. Legislative aides were impressed that so many people signed the petitions in just 10 days.

For the record: Text of  sports petition:  “We the undersigned petition the Wisconsin Legislature to remove from the Budget Bill the language that would allow homeschoolers (and other school district residents who are not enrolled in public schools in the district) to participate in public school sports. Among the reasons: School sports teams are expected to be made up of students enrolled in the school. Also, the vast majority of homeschoolers don’t want to risk losing their independence of public schools by authorizing public schools to determine whether homeschoolers’ academic performance is adequate for them to participate in public school sports, an action which would open the door to increased state regulation of all homeschoolers.”

For the record: Text of  diploma petition: “We the undersigned petition the Wisconsin Legislature to remove from the Budget Bill the language that would allow people with homeschool diplomas to be employed as teacher’s aides in private schools participating in choice programs. Among the reasons: This provision implies that a homeschool diploma is invalid unless recognized by Wisconsin statutes. It ignores the long-standing acceptance of homeschool diplomas by colleges and universities, employers, the military, and others.”

May 28, 2015 — Why Sign Sports Petition and Diploma Petition
Legislation that would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports would undermine our homeschooling freedoms. Click here for the reasons.

The Wisconsin Legislature is currently working on the Budget Bill. In a surprise, sneaky move on May 20, 2015, a provision was added to this 1,000 page bill that would allow homeschoolers (and other students not enrolled public schools in a school district) to participate in public school sports.

Another provision in the Budget Bill would undermine homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in private schools participating in a private school choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion, #17 page 6) Click here for more information.

Our best chance of getting changes made to the legislation will be when Assembly and Senate Republican and Democratic Caucuses meet to make changes to the Budget Bill. The more Assembly Representative and State Senators who can say, “I heard from a lot of people on these issues, and I’m in favor of removing them,” the better the chances that the caucus will vote to remove it.

How

Note: Signers must be 18 years of age or older and residents of Wisconsin. Please submit a separate signature page for each individual; do not submit “John and Maria Smith” on one form.

  • Sign both petitions online here and here. All you need to do is complete the online petition form. You do not need to mail or email it to WPA.
  • Share these links with other homeschoolers, members of your homeschool support group, supporters of public schools, people involved in sports activities such soccer and volleyball leagues, friends, relative, other concerned citizens, etc.

When

  • By June 7, 2015. (WPA will present the signatures to the Legislature June 8, 2015.

Privacy

  • WPA will present the names and addresses of people who sign the petitions to the Legislature. WPA will not share, lease, sell, or in any other way release the names, land addresses, email addresses, or other information of people who sign the petitions.

Oppose Legislation That Undermines Homeschool Diplomas

Act now! Sign WPA’s petition. Contact legislators. Tell others.

Ask legislators to remove from the Budget Bill the provision that states “Specify that a private school participating in a private school choice program can employ a teacher’s aide who has been granted a high school diploma by the administrator of a home-based private educational program.” (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #17)

This provision
• is based on one case involving a homeschool diploma,
• is a response to a request from one organization from outside Wisconsin, and
• is a major change from the way homeschool diplomas have been successfully dealt with in Wisconsin since 1984.

Background: For many years, homeschool diplomas have been accepted by colleges and universities, Wisconsin technical colleges, federal grants for education, federal student loan programs, employers, the military, Wisconsin’s Attorney General’s office, etc. However, occasionally a new or uninformed public official, employer, or admissions officer does not initially accept a homeschool diploma. In these cases, WPA helps homeschoolers educate the official and ensure that the diploma is accepted.

According to an organization from outside Wisconsin, recently a private school in Wisconsin participating in a Private School Choice (PSC) program did not renew the contract of a teacher’s aide who had submitted her homeschool diploma to confirm that she met the requirement that aides be high school graduates. The DPI reportedly had told the school that they could lose their PSC funding if they continued to employ her (unless she got her GED). The outside organization is trying to solve this problem through legislation. As a result, this provision on diplomas was inserted in the Budget Bill and did not receive a hearing or discussion.

Note: The paragraph above is brief because WPA has not been contacted by the parties involved in this particular case. However, since 1984, we have dealt successfully with a number of similar cases in which a program, a government agency, an employer, or an institution refused to accept a homeschool diploma. These cases were resolved by our educating the parties involved and convincing them to accept the homeschool diploma.

This provision
• is unnecessary,
• would set a precedent of using statutes to gain acceptance of homeschool diplomas in specific situations,
• could undermine the current system,
• could raise questions about the validity of homeschool diplomas, and
• could open the door for state regulation of homeschool diplomas.

A statute such as this that mandates acceptance of homeschool diplomas will give the government the authority to define such a diploma and decide what requirements homeschooolers must meet to earn a diploma. Homeschoolers do not want their diplomas regulated by the government.

If the Legislature passes this for one person in one situation, acting as the state certifying a homeschool diploma, it will create a bureaucratic nightmare.

Additional Information for Homeschoolers
Although homeschool diplomas are widely accepted, homeschool graduates are sometimes told by new or uninformed officials from various institutions that their homeschool diploma does not meet requirements. When people contact WPA today for assistance getting their homeschool diploma accepted, WPA helps them do what has worked so well in the past: (1) Read and interpret the statute or regulation in question yourself. (2) Adapt the letter below about diplomas for your purposes and send to the person or institution you are dealing with. (3) Let WPA know if you need additional help.

WPA Letter on Diplomas

WPA Oppose Diploma Leg and Letter

Contact State Legislators

Why?
Legislation that would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports would undermine our homeschooling freedoms. Click here for the reasons.

This sports language was put together principally by just two legislators, Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (see “Homeschool to Sports” in the attached Rep. Thiesfeldt’s email) and Bob Kulp (a homeschooler who wanted [On May 30, 2015, WPA corrected a typo by changing “wants” to “wanted.”] his sons to be able to play public school sports). It was stuck into the Budget Bill without discussion at 1:30 am on May 20, 2015. (Here’s what happened when Rep. Thiesfeldt tried to introduce this sports language through the normal legislative process in 2013.)

Legislators need to hear from you. If we allow this language to pass without a fight, we can expect more efforts to trade homeschooling independence and freedom for so-called favors from the government.

Another provision in the Budget Bill would undermine homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in private schools participating in a private school choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion, #17 page 6) 

Our best chance of getting changes made to the legislation will be when Assembly and Senate Republican and Democratic Caucuses meet to make changes to the Budget Bill.** The more Assembly Representative and State Senators who can say, “I heard from a lot of constituents on this issue and I’m in favor of removing it,” the better the chances that the caucus will vote to remove it.

Who to Contact
• Your Wisconsin Assembly Representative and State Senator. Ask to speak to an aide for education. Their contact information is here.
• Key leaders in the Republican caucuses, even if you don’t live in their districts.

Senator Scott L. Fitzgerald
Majority Leader, Republican
Senate District 13 (R – Juneau)
Madison  (608) 266-5660
Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

Senator Sheila Harsdorf
Majority Caucus Chair, Republican
Senate District 10 (R – River Falls)
Madison  (608) 266-7745
Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov

Representative Robin Vos
Speaker
Republican  Rochester, WI
Assembly District 63
Madison (608) 266-9171
Madison (888) 534-0063
District: (262) 514-2597
Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov

Representative John Murtha
Republican  Baldwin, WI
Majority Caucus Chair
Assembly District 29
Madison  (608) 266-7683
Madison  (888) 529-0029
Rep.Murtha@legis.wisconsin.gov

When to contact them
Between now and June 7, 2015.

What to say:
(1) About the provision to allow homeschoolers (and others) to participate in public school sports. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #29, pages 11-12)
Say to the legislator or their aide: When your caucus meets to vote on the Budget Bill, please vote to remove the provision that would allow homeschoolers (and other school district residents who are not enrolled in public schools in the district) to participate in public school sports for the following reasons:
• School sports teams are expected to be made up of students who are enrolled in the school.
• As a homeschooler, I don’t want this sports legislation since it allows public school officials to make decisions about homeschools in Wisconsin. Neither public schools nor the Department of Public Instruction has ever had this authority and they should not have it now.
• I and the vast majority of homeschoolers I know don’t want any so-called favors from the government, including permission to participate in public school sports. Homeschoolers realize accepting tax dollars or other favors from the government consistently leads to increased government regulation. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
• Allowing homeschool students to participate in public school sports will lead to ill will toward homeschoolers and calls by the public and the educational interest groups for homeschools to be subject to the same curriculum and testing requirements as public schools.
• Once the government allows public schools to assess the quality of homeschooling curriculums and grading for sports, it will be a short step to allowing public schools to regulate homeschools in areas such as homeschooling curriculum, testing, transcripts, diplomas, etc.
• In a sneaky surprise move, this provision was added to the Budget Bill at 1:30 am on May 20 with no discussion. Two Assembly Representative, Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Bob Kulp, want homeschoolers to be allowed to participate in public school sports, partly for personal reasons. ( According to Rep. Kulp, his homeschooled sons wanted to participate in public school sports.) Although they both know that the vast majority of homeschoolers oppose this, they have persisted. When Rep. Thiesfeldt failed to find enough co-sponsors for such a bill in 2013, he and Rep. Kulp evidently devised this tactic. This is not how representative government is supposed to work.

(2) What to say about the provision that undermines homeschool diplomas.
Say to the legislator or their aide: Also, please vote to remove the provision that would undermine the validity of homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in a private school participating in a Private School Choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #17, page 6).
• This provision implies that a homeschool diploma is invalid unless recognized by Wisconsin statutes for a specific purpose, in this case, employment as a teacher’s aide.
• This provision is unnecessary. Homeschool diplomas have been widely accepted for many years by colleges and universities, federal student loans and scholarships, employers, the military, and others. This provision weakens the acceptance of homeschool diplomas by ignoring the fact that they are already so widely accepted.

More details are here.

Alternative Actions for People Who Would Rather Not Talk With Legislators
Calls are the most effective, but the following are definitely worth doing:
• Call legislators’ offices outside regular office hours and leave a voicemail message.
• Send an email. A short one is fine. When contacting your own legislators, be sure to include your land address so they know you are a constituent.
For more information and suggestions, see and the WPA handbook, Homeschooling in Wisconsin: At Home With Learning Chapter 30, “Working with the Legislature.”

** Other ways to have these provisions removed are much less promising:
(1) The Joint Finance Committee (composed of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats from the Senate and Assembly) is scheduled to vote on May 29 on the version of the Budget Bill to send to the caucuses. It is very unlikely that this Committee would, at that time, consider changes such as we are requesting, especially since they voted on May 20 to adopt these provisions.
(2) The full Assembly and Senate will vote on the final version of the Budget Bill. However, they will almost certainly vote the whole 1,000 page bill either up or down rather than considering any amendments to such a large bill at that point.
(3) The Governor could use a line item veto to remove provisions from the Budget Bill before he signs it. However, it is unlikely that he could be persuaded to remove these provisions.

Thiesfeldt Email re Homeschool to Sports

How Homeschoolers’ Participation in Public School Sports Would Undermine Homeschooling Freedoms

  • Increased regulation of homeschools. Accepting tax dollars or other favors from the government consistently leads to increased government regulation. Specifically, this proposal allows a public school or school board to determine whether homeschoolers’ academic performance is adequate. This provision is unavoidable because public school students must meet academic standards, and to avoid discrimination, similar standards would need to be applied to homeschoolers. Also, without such standards, public school athletes who were failing to meet academic standards could drop out of public school, homeschool, and still participate in sports.
  • A dangerous new precedent and a serious loss of homeschooling freedom. For the first time in Wisconsin history, this provision would allow public schools to determine whether homeschools meet public school standards. If this provision becomes law, people could no longer say, “Sports legislation might or might not reduce homeschooling freedoms.” People would have to say, “Sports legislation has reduced homeschooling freedoms.”
  • Increased state regulation for ALL homeschoolers. Supporters of sports legislation claim that increased regulation of homeschoolers would apply only to those who participate in public school sports. However, many examples show that regulations that initially applied to only a small subset of a larger group before long were applied to the whole group. This is particularly true for a group like homeschoolers. Many critics and opponents have thought for years that greater state regulation of all homeschoolers was needed.
  • Loss of unity among homeschoolers. Sports legislation destroys one of the key foundations of homeschooling freedoms in Wisconsin. From the day WPA was founded, January 6, 1984, WPA members have worked together to protect everyone’s homeschooling freedoms. People who would have liked access to free standardized testing through the public schools have not requested it. People who would have appreciated having a trained educator review their curriculum have not asked for this. Parents with college degrees have not asked for special favors because of their education. What each homeschooling family does affects the freedom of all of us. Setting the precedent of sneaking in legislation that benefits the special interests of a small group of homeschoolers would open the doors to increased state regulation.

As Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

  • Backlash against homeschoolers. People are reporting to WPA that homeschoolers are being criticized on social media, in informal conversations, and in other places for wanting favors from the government, especially at the expense of public schools and in such desperate economic times. We need to make it clear to individuals, legislators, the media, and the general public that the vast majority of homeschoolers are NOT in favor of this legislation.

Responses to Homeschoolers Who Want to Participate in Public School Sports

  • Some people claim that allowing homeschoolers to participate in public school sports in other states has not led to increased state regulation in other states, so Wisconsin homeschoolers do not need to worry. WPA strongly disagrees.

First, states that allow homeschoolers to play public school sports already had in place greater state regulation of homeschooling than Wisconsin has, and there was no need to increase state regulation in those states. In other words, homeschoolers in other states had already lost important homeschooling freedoms that Wisconsin homeschoolers have. Wisconsin homeschoolers have a lot to lose!

Second, the fact that regulation hasn’t been increased in the past doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be in the future. Since it is much easier to increase state regulation of homeschooling than to decrease it, if regulation were increased, it would no doubt be a burden to homeschoolers for a long time, possibly indefinitely.

  • Some people claim that “Some families really want their children to participate in public school sports.” WPA’s response is that each family must make choices. Families can explore other sports opportunities, encourage individual sports, or enroll their children in a public school and count school attendance as part of the cost of playing public school sports.

Open Letter to Representative Bob Kulp — Wisconsin State Legislature

From: Wisconsin Parents Association (WPA)

Re: Homeschoolers’ Opposition to Legislation to Allow Homeschoolers to Participate in Public School Sports

Dear Representative Kulp:

I am writing to emphasize WPA’s position on homeschooling freedoms, and specifically on ways that these freedoms would be undermined by any legislation to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports. You appear to have a different understanding of homeschooling freedoms than the vast majority of Wisconsin homeschoolers do. (more…)

Contact Your Wisconsin State Legislators in January

Summary: We need to explain to Wisconsin legislators that Wisconsin’s homeschooling law is working well and should not be changed and that homeschoolers do NOT want favors from the government. In mid-January, WPA sent to all Wisconsin State Legislators a printed copy of the Open Letter. But it will be much more effective for Legislators to hear from their constituents and that means YOU. The more people who contact their legislators, the more secure our freedoms will be. YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

Why Contact Legislators in January? (more…)

Open Letter To Wisconsin Legislators

Open Letter To Wisconsin Legislators

From: Wisconsin Homeschoolers Working Together Through WPA

Subject: Why We Do Not Want Tax Credits or Other “Favors” for Homeschoolers

To maintain our freedoms and responsibilities, thousands of Wisconsin homeschoolers have been working together since 1984 through Wisconsin Parents Association (WPA), a state-wide grassroots organization that welcomes all homeschoolers. Through discussions, newsletters, resolutions, and conferences, we have come to the following conclusions: (more…)