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House Bill Enables Athletic Participation For Hope Scholarship Students

A soccer player readies to kick a ball across the field.Hero Images/Getty Images

Hope Scholarship recipients and other non-traditional students would be able to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities at their local public schools under House Bill 2820.

The bill, which was considered in the House Education Committee Tuesday, would amend state code to allow these types of students to participate in public school programs if they’ve shown “satisfactory evidence of academic progress,” similar to how homeschooled students in the state already enroll. 

The bill also includes students enrolled in microschools and learning pods, though there are no microschools in the state.

“I think the question or the element of fairness comes to mind when we know those kids who are not academically finding success in the public school system find a way to improve their academic success elsewhere,” said Del. Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, who spoke in favor of the bill. “When they leave that public school system, they’re not taking all of their parents’ tax money from that county, they’re leaving some in that county. They still have skin in the game. So that’s fair that they would have the opportunity if their school that they go to doesn’t offer sports.”

Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, the minority chair of the House Education Committee, expressed concerns over how it would potentially affect other students.

“On one hand, I obviously want to help the kid to be able to participate,” said Hornbuckle. “But on the other one, I want to also make sure that it doesn’t cause a disparate impact of other private school students.”

That came among other questions on how academic progress and discipline would be measured from other lawmakers.

“If a student is in a learning pod, or microschool, how do we know that that discipline is equivalent [to a public school]?” Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, asked early during the proceedings.

Legislators discussed HB 2820 for more than an hour, with an eventual amendment clarifying that private school students would not be able to play on a public school team if the sport is already offered at their school.

The bill passed the committee and is on its way to the House floor.

Other bills discussed during the meeting included House Bill 3293, which establishes requirements for educational agencies to help identify and support students with dyslexia and dyscalculia, and House Bill 3273, which establishes a commission that would negotiate dealings with entities interested in utilizing intellectual properties owned by institutions of higher education.

Both bills were approved in committee. HB 3293 is expected to be on second reading Wednesday, while HB 3273 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.