When Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the state’s $62 billiontwo-year budget into law on Sunday night, some homeschoolers were stunned to find out that tucked inside was language (3313.5312) expanding the rights of homeschooled and private school students. They will now be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities in the public schools in their home districts, including high school athletics. Without debate or fanfare, legislators added an amendment in the finance committee before the final vote giving homeschoolers (and private school students whose schools do not offer a particular activity) the right to join their local public schools for extracurricular activities:

“A student who is receiving home instruction…shall be afforded, by the superintendent of the school district in which the student is entitled to attend school…the opportunity to participate in any extracurricular activity offered at the district school to which the student otherwise would be assigned during that school year.”

Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) inserted the amendment without objection. He told me on Tuesday morning that it was an open process in the finance committee rather than something slipped in at the last minute:

“I did it on the finance committee in front of many stakeholders. There was no behind the doors deal. It was basically up front. It was amended in and accepted by the committee…so we did use the process correctly.”

Hall said that his office had been working with local stakeholders in the homeschooling community in his district to draft a bill to give homeschoolers the right to participate in extracurricular activities, but saw an opportunity with the budget process. “We were reforming education on the funding side and so it was the perfect opportunity to put the amendment right into the budget.”

Hall’s Chief of Staff, Mike McGuire, who had been homeschooled and denied the opportunity to participate in high school athletics, helped move the issue: “He was a frustrated young man trying to get on the tennis team. He educated myself and many others on the issue.”