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Bill would allow extra-curricular activities for all students

March 01, 2001

Bill would allow extra-curricular activities for all students



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - A local lawmaker wants to allow home school and private school students to join extra-curricular activities at their local public school.

"Number one, I think it's an equity issue," Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

Those families pay taxes and deserve to reap some of the benefits, he said. At the same time, public schools might be able to expand their extra-curricular offerings if they had more students to participate, he said.

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Bartlett, who attended private schools, said he hopes his bill will bridge the communication gap between public and private school students and families.

The bill won't cost the state or local school districts any money because the students would have to pay their own way. It would not require all schools to open up their programs.

Six other states have similar policies, he said.

Public school advocates testified against the bill.

Lauren McAlee, a student at South River High School in Anne Arundel County, said the policy would have hidden costs.

"How can we subsidize nonpublic schools when public schools right now are so hard-pressed with their budgets?" she asked.

The increased competition for spots on sports teams would create hard feelings, she said.

"Whether or not it's the right reaction or not is debatable, but it's human nature," she said.

Star Johnson, a student at Potomac High School in Prince George's County, testified the policy would erode school spirit.

Edward Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary School Association, said being a public school student is the main requirement for participating in interscholastic athletics.

Opening up the rosters would complicate things because all students wouldn't be subject to the same academic eligibility requirements, he said.

School administrators would be required to assume responsibility for nonstudents, he said.

Bartlett responded that students could sign liability waivers.

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