House proposal allowing charter school athletes to play for private schools advances, added to larger bill
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/5/23-Rep. Robbie Brackett, R-Vero Beach,during the House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

All three versions of the measure are moving ahead.

A House bill allowing charter school students to play in private school sports is now off the starting block but still trailing two similar, fast-tracked measures sprinting to floor votes.

The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee unanimously voted to advance a legislation (HB 259) that would extend to charter school students the same extracurricular and athletics provisions now offered to students who are homeschooled.

Students enrolled in Florida Virtual School could join them too, thanks to an amendment the panel approved.

The vote to advance the bill Thursday came with a caveat from Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon, who asked for the measure to be further amended so public school students could enjoy the same freedom of choice.

In its current form, HB 259 would give students attending charter schools without a specific sports program the ability to play for a willing private school.

Florida law now allows only homeschooled students to participate in the extracurricular activities of a private school. If a particular offering isn’t available at a charter school, the only option for students there is to sign up for a sport or program at the public school they’d otherwise attend under the district area enrollment policy.

“I think (changing that) falls in line with parental rights,” said Republican Rep. Robbie Brackett of Vero Beach, where discussion of the issue originated.

Brackett added that the language of his bill, in its amended form, has been added to a larger measure (HB 225) now heading to the House floor.

For years, a private school called Master’s Academy in Vero Beach welcomed charter school students into its varsity football program through an arrangement that hinged on an interpretation of the state statute allowing homeschooled students to the sports teams of private schools.

Such arrangements are voluntary; private schools aren’t compelled to participate.

Last year, someone complained about it to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, forcing the charter school players off the team in the middle of the season. The conference also overturned all of the wins the school notched until that point. They won the championship anyway.

“We were heartbroken,” Wayne Smith, the head of schools at Master’s Academy, told Florida Politics in January. “It hurt us, but more than that it hurt these charter school boys who had nowhere else to play, nowhere else to go, and suddenly they were without a team — kicked off a winning team, nonetheless.”

Brackett’s bill and its identical Senate analogue (SB 190) by Republican Sen. Erin Grall, who also represents Vero Beach, would change that. Charter school students could choose between playing in a public school sports program — where they may be undersized, as was the case for the students who played for Master’s Academy, Smith said — or through an agreement with a nearby private institution.

“The parent makes the decision not to send their child to the public school they’re zoned for and instead chooses to send their child to a charter school,” Grall said. “This lines up the homeschooling statute with the charter school statute … to fix it and make it more clear.”

But since charter schools are technically public schools deserving of the same accommodations, the same accommodations afforded to charter school students should be open to students whose parents enroll them in traditional public schools, Nixon argued. She asked Brackett to update the bill so that’s the case.

“Parents that send their children to public schools — traditional public schools — do, in fact, make a choice,” Nixon said, adding that her daughter, who attends a public school, would love to play volleyball on a private school team with “more resources than some other schools.”

“We’re just asking for parity and equity across the board. What’s good for charter schools should be good for traditional public schools as well.”

Brackett said is “willing to sit down and talk further about” it with Nixon and HB 225 sponsor Fred Hawkins, a Republican Representative from St. Cloud.

HB 259 will next go before the Education and Employment Committee, its final committee stop before going to the House floor.

HB 225 and SB 190 have now cleared all the committees to which they were referenced and pend full chamber votes.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Mr. Haney

    March 13, 2023 at 8:47 am

    No surprise here, in Florida, sports is more important than an actual education.

  • Captain Ahab

    March 13, 2023 at 11:53 am

    What a joke, why not just have agents cruise the ghetto and sign kids in elementary school at this point? Baby mamas can pledge their first born to the Dolphins. NBA D-league basketball will start at age six, overseen by (((the usual suspects))). Real history – Same slave system as 400 years ago, still run by (((them))) just more lucrative now.

Comments are closed.


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