Public School Privilege

“No Child Left Behind.” That’s the stated policy of our nationalized, near-monopoly public school system.

The slogan is the usual grandiose utopian mumbo-jumbo we’ve come to expect from Washington, followed by a multitude of annoying and absurd outcomes in schools across the country.

At least, it’s nice to hear that all children matter. But in public schools do they? Really?

In my Virginia backyard, the ongoing battle over whether homeschooled students will be permitted to try out for public school sports teams is starkly instructive. For the last three legislative sessions, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has introduced House Bill 947, which would allow homeschool children to try out for public school sports by disallowing public schools in the Commonwealth from contracting with the Virginia High School League, the private organization that bans homeschool kids from participating.

Interesting to see that public school administrators have signed contracts with a private entity, VHSL, which actively discriminates in the precise way public school groups so vehemently favor.

The Virginia High School League offered their own glass-half-empty statement in opposition to the legislation, explaining that, “If a non-student makes the team, a student attending the school will not.” The VHSL statement also quoted an ominous warning from former State Superintendent for Public Instruction William Bosher, that “Allowing students who are homeschooled to participate in high school athletics could change the entire structure of high school athletics.”

But would this earth-shattering “change” to “the entire structure” be good or bad?

The legislation has been dubbed “The Tebow Bill,” after Tim Tebow, the NFL’s rookie sensation, who led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. Before that Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the University of Florida and before that he was a homeschool kid allowed to play football for his local public high school. Of course, homeschoolers are sometimes a little unconventional. Tebow has consistently failed to get arrested on drug or gun charges and, even more controversially, he talks about his religious faith.

“We’re not ready for this type of incursion into our school system,” complained Delegate Bob Tata (R-Virginia Beach), the House Education Committee chairman, while explaining that the state’s school boards and superintendents oppose HB 947. The state’s teachers’ unions also oppose the bill, as does the Virginia Parent Teacher Association.

Yet, the invasion of their hallowed public-private playground by the private public may be imminent. The barbarians are already at the gate of the evenly-split state Senate, HB 947 having passed the House of Delegates this past week by a vote of 59-39.

Expect intensive lobbying by the politically powerful education establishment. In an email, the Virginia PTA urged its cadre to: “Let [legislators] know that public school is your choice and team sports are a privilege you earned and expect them to protect.”

Notice how fast public education went from a right for every child to a privilege for some, who plead with politicians to protect them from having to associate with “the other.” To do the unimaginable: give others an equal chance to “try out.”

Where have we heard this sort of debate before?

And if integrated sports teams are unthinkable, the PTA email poses a harrowing question, “What’s next? Drama, debate, electives?”

If we’re not careful, truly public education could break out. With free and diverse integration.

The PTA’s orthographically deviant slogan is “every child. one voice.”

Why not allow every one of those children his or her own voice? And an equal chance to win a spot on the team.

February 12, 2012

This column first appeared on Townhall.com.