Charter and on-line school students will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at their home boundary schools if a Senate bill is successful.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, is sponsoring Senate Bill 36 which requires public schools to allow charter and on-line students access to public school extracurricular programs through their home boundary school.
"In this state there is great inequity," Madsen told the Senate Education Committee Thursday before it passed out the bill favorably. He said some districts allow charter school students to participate in extracurricular activities, while others do not. He praised the Utah High School Activities Association for working with legislators in trying to deal with this issue through a change in the interpretation of UHSAA bylaws, which they passed in August.
But some school districts, like Alpine, still don't allow charter students to participate, in part, because no one has been able to determine how much it costs schools to have students participate in extracurricular activities.
"An interpretation of rules does not compel a school district to allow these students to participate," Madsen said. "This sets a uniform standard across the state."
Madsen and others who spoke in support of the bill called traditional high schools community centers and feel their programs should benefit all children, not just its enrolled students. His bill offers a formula for calculating the cost for students to participate in activities, but no real numbers were discussed.
Officials agree that charter schools, which receive public funding, should compensate public schools for that cost. But determining that figure and how the money is transferred between schools, Van Wagoner said, should come from those who oversee public education not the Legislature.
"It actually should be done at the State Office of Education rather than the Legislature," Van Wagoner said. "They could implement it much easier ... The transfer of money is highly complicated."
The Utah State School Board and Utah High School Activities Association have both said the bill is unnecessary.
Alpine's administrator of 10-12 and adult school and former Provo High principal Sam Jarman said the district is currently discussing with charter schools how to solve the problem and agreed legislative intervention is probably not necessary.
"We should be able to work this out," Jarman said. In addition to financial concerns, the Alpine School Board is concerned about practical implications of allowing students who don't attend a school to participate in activities.
"I don't feel like we are just trying to be stubborn," Jarman said. "We just want to make it fair for those kids who attend those schools. How is everyone going to feel when a student who attends a school gets bumped from a (roster) and a student who doesn't attend that school makes it?"
There are other issues like how do coaches check attendance, grades and other team requirements?
"What activities are we talking about?" Jarman said. "Could these students run for student government?"
Madsen said Thursday that students were interested in everything from football and baseball to choir, drama and chess clubs. The UHSAA doesn't oversee activities like chess or club sports like lacrosse and rodeo, although, some of those groups use school facilities.
Jarman said the district has already offered one charter school the ability to be part-time students at traditional schools and then be eligible to participate in activities and athletics."We thought that was a compromise that might work," he said.