Reps. James Strickler and Stephanie Garcia Richard are sponsoring a bill that would allow home-schooled teams in academic competitions

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FARMINGTON — A bill sponsored by Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, would expand the ability of home-schooled groups to form teams and compete in state academic activities such as speech and debate competitions and science fairs.

Strickler and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, introduced House Bill 270 on Friday. When reached by phone today in Santa Fe, Strickler said home-schooled students have participated in academic competitions in the past. But, he said, there have been cases in which the New Mexico Activities Association denied home-schooled teams the opportunity to participate.

Strickler said the bill's purpose is to ensure home-schooled students can compete in academic competitions.

NMAA Associate Director Dusty Young said home-schoolers can participate in activities either as part of a public school's team or in their own groups. He said if students choose to join a public school's team, they must live within the school's attendance boundaries. Young said home-schooled teams are allowed to compete but cannot win NMAA awards because only members of the association can compete for awards.

Right now, he said home-schooled groups cannot become NMAA members because there is no institution overseeing them. If approved, House Bill 270 would make home-schooled teams eligible for NMAA membership.

In San Juan County, the San Juan Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which will take place in March, will included several home-schooled participants, but these students cannot compete at the district science fair, according to Steven Stubbs, the regional fair's director.

That means that home-schooled students who live in Farmington cannot participate in the Farmington Municipal School District's Science Fair this Friday and Saturday at Farmington Civic Center, but they can participate in the regional science fair in March at Piedra Vista High School.

Strickler said House Bill 270 bill would only apply to academic competitions, such as science fairs and speech and debate events. It would not apply to athletic competitions. Home-schooled students can still join public school's athletic teams.

This is not the first time Strickler has proposed a bill to expand options for home-schoolers. In 2009, he sponsored a bill to increase the number of school district activities open to home-schooled students. The bill passed the state House and Senate, and the governor signed it into law in April 2009.

That law allows home-schooled students to participate in up to three school district athletic activities at public schools. Before 2009, home-schooled students were only allowed to participate in one school district athletic activity.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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