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Capitol Beat: participation in public school sports

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CHARLESTON, WV (WVVA) - Some fresh faces could soon take the fields and courts at schools across the state of West Virginia. The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow home and private school students to participate in public school sports.

It was a war of words as lawmakers debated a bill that would for the first time welcome private and homes school students into the world of public school athletics.

"So you're going to punish the kid for the choice the parent makes? My position is not to disrupt the entire state when it comes to high school athletics," said Sen. Mike Woelfel, a Democrat with the 5th Dist.

The bill's sponsors say the legislature has safeguards to ensure private school students are meeting the same academic standards and taking the same tests.

"This will allow home school students to participate. There are 2300 students on home school so this is a great opportunity to open up to them," said Sen. Mike Romano, a Democrat representing the 12th Dist.

During the floor debate, supporters of the bill said it will give taxpaying parents an option to help their children succeed. Meanwhile, opponents say it takes away that choice from students committed to the public school system.

Some lawmakers argued the bill could encourage students who are not meeting the academic standards to leave the public school system. it was a fierce floor debate that left some lawmakers undecided up until the very end to vote for the bill.

"This is where the debate I think is important. I want to hear from colleagues and see if there's a viewpoint i haven't heard yet. With kids sometimes it's hard knowing what the right thing is," said Sen. Chandler Swope, a Republican representing Mercer County.

The measure ultimately passed 24-9, clearing a first hurdle before making its way next to the Senate.

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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