HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed Senate Bill 361, sponsored by Sen. Bob Regola (R-Westmoreland), into law to help the state's 25,000 children who are taught at home participate in extracurricular activities in their local school districts. "While I have long been an advocate of public education and the need to ensure a world-class public education system in our state, I think the commitment to education demonstrated by homeschool parents has too long been undervalued," said Governor Rendell in his signing letter to the legislature. "As Senate Bill 361 worked its way through the Legislature, I asked my staff to review such critical questions as the financial implications of the bill, whether it imposes any new financial burdens and whether such burdens could be met with current resources. I also asked that we consider the appropriateness of state legislation given the local control structure of Pennsylvania's school system. This thorough review process gave me an opportunity to understand the personal circumstances and the goals of homeschool parents and their children. "I read of Barry Clay's desire for his children to participate with their friends in extracurricular activities in the Carlisle Area School District, of Carol Loys' hope that her children could do the same with their friends in the West Shore School District, and of Beverly Wiezorek's efforts to convince the Pittsburgh School District to let her son, Wesley, play football. These were just a few examples that illustrated the pleas of parents, asking that their children be able to enjoy the benefit of extra-curricular sports, the opportunity to compete for college sports scholarships and the ability to participate in and contribute to their communities. "I found it disheartening that 221 of our school districts do not permit homeschool children to engage in school sports, plays, clubs or other programs that promote good social values, integrate our communities and clearly contribute to the positive social development of our children. I agree with these dedicated parents that they have every right to be frustrated. As any good parent would, they are looking out for the interests of their children. And not only are they involved in their child's education, they share in their local school's cost by paying property taxes. It seems disingenuous to suggest that permitting these students to take part in school-based extra curricular activities would be unjust or a burden on public school budgets since their parents are paying property taxes. "It's clear that parents who homeschool their children do not make this decision lightly. Some do so because they want their child's education to be integrated with their faith and do not have access to a private school that reflects their religious beliefs. Others choose homeschooling in an effort to offer more challenging coursework to children who have advanced beyond the available curricula offered locally. Others may have a child with special needs and opt for homeschooling as a way to provide individualized attention that may be unavailable or impractical for their school district. These parents make tough choices, rearranging their lives entirely around the needs of their children. These parents deserve our respect and their children are entitled to be included in the activities of their school districts." Senate Bill 361 amends the Public School Code of 1949. As of Jan. 1, 2006, a school district of residence must permit a child enrolled in a home education program to participate in any extracurricular activities provided by that local district. The child must meet both eligibility and the activities' try-out requirements. The child will also have to comply with the rules of the club or organization he or she chooses to join. Interscholastic athletics and activities, which occur between schools within the district or between schools outside of the district, are also included this amendment. If the activity requires a physical exam or medical test, the district must post the information on their web site and circulate it in an area publication. The bill passed the Senate 34-16 and the House, with amendments, 197-02. The Senate concurred, with additional amendments, 33-17. The House agreed 195-3. The bill is effective immediately. The Rendell Administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit his Web site at: http://www.governor.state.pa.us. CONTACT: Brandi Hunter-Davenport, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, +1-717-783-1116.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor