Bill gives virtual charter students the chance to play sports


By Paige

INDIANAPOLIS – A Republican-backed bill would allow Hoosiers attending virtual charter schools to participate in sports in their local districts.

House Bill 1047 – authored by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour – passed the Education Committee with a 7-2 vote Tuesday.

The bill would have originally applied to all charter schools not affiliated with the Indiana High School Athletic Association. After an amendment, the bill only applies to students attending virtual charter schools, which are generally web-based with limited in-person interaction.

The bill also restricts students to playing for schools in their residential districts.

“There was some people that expressed some concern and would like to see (HB 1047) narrowed, which I think this amendment did,” Lucas said. “It took it down to just define virtual charter schools only.

“As I see it, there could be one child, one student, that helps bring the team forward so much that they become a sell-out,” said Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon. “People come to the basketball game, to the football game because the team is winning and there is a lot of revenue that comes in.”

Caryl Auslander, representing Indiana Connections Academy, told the committee about Alex Creech, an avid softball player from Bloomington.

Auslander said Creech chose the Indiana Connections Academy but wanted to participate at her resident school, Edgewood. Creech was deemed eligible by the IHSAA and proved she was a full-time student attending a non-IHSAA school, but the resident district superintendent denied her request.

“If Ms. Creech was deemed eligible by the IHSAA, and fulfilled all the requirements placed upon her by existing IHSAA rules, we respectfully request that she should be able to try out for her resident school teams,” Auslander said. “We are not requesting that she be placed on the team, but simply have the opportunity as any other student to have the chance to try out.”

John O’Neil, a lobbyist for the Indiana State Teachers Association, does not “want to deny anyone’s ability to participate in athletics” but still opposed the bill.

“Philosophically, we feel that when a parent and student makes that choice to go to school, that choice has been made knowing the consequences and services offered by that school, O’Neil said. “We don’t want to start seeing this picking and choosing where a student enrolls in one school and has the luxury of taking services from another institution “Public school students certainly don’t have that same luxury.”

Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said the amendment makes the bill “much better” but still thinks it sends a “horrible message.”

“The concept is there are plenty of opportunities for kids to participate in athletics,” Battles said, “Just because they made the choice of a virtual charter…we’re not taking them from athletics.”

Battles said virtual charter students could try club sports and the Amateur Athletic Union as alternate options for sports.

Lobbyist Mark Palmer said he had “personal issues” that stemmed from being the son and grandson of high school coaches. Parents “are not paying money that goes into the general fund, which is used to pay the coaches,” Palmer said.

“These parents are paying the coach’s salary,” Lucas argued. “Don’t (parents) pay taxes?”

“I’m sure there’s going to be some interesting discussion on it (in the House). There usually is with education bills. That’s the beauty of the process,” Lucas said. “We let both sides give their view of it, and then we’ll see how it shakes out.”

Paige Clark is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.