“Tebow Bill” Fails In Senate Education And Health Committee

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March 1, 2012

The Senate Education and Health Committee this morning voted 7-8 (see vote) to defeat HB 947, a bill patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), which would have removed a significant barrier preventing home school students from trying out for public school sports teams. Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) joined the seven Democrats on the committee in opposition to the bill.

The bill, which became known in the media as the “Tebow bill,” was a top legislative priority for The Family Foundation. More than half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provides opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports, but at this point Virginia will not join that league.

Delegate Bell eloquently presented the bill, anticipating opponents’ arguments and masterfully debunking them. He explained that homeschoolers were not looking for a guaranteed spot on the team, but rather the ability to tryout. They were not looking to school shop, but rather tryout for their local high school team. They were not looking to participate for free, but rather pay any expenses the coach deemed appropriate. Additionally, the bill included the right for localities to add requirements of their own as well as a four year sunset. Nothing in the bill was an earthshaking change.

Opponents claimed homeschoolers want it both ways and that they know the rules when they make their choice. But Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach) countered that some students are caught in a trap of staying in public school just to play sports when their educational needs are better served in a home school environment.

After his presentation, numerous homeschoolers testified to their own academic prowess and athletic ability. One boy spoke of his participation in rowing. He rows with his team at many regattas, but is barred from rowing with his teammates when VHSL facilitates the competition. He expressed his frustration with his “second class citizenship.” A public school student from Godwin High School in Henrico County, who plays on the junior varsity basketball team, told committee members that there was a shortage of students interested in playing girls basketball, so she and her teammates had to recruit players. She said that homeschooler participation would be a welcomed addition.

However, the  educrat establishment (Virginia Education Association, Virginia High School League, Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Superintendents Association, the Parent Teacher Association, etc.) turned out in full force to oppose the bill. Perhaps the most enlightening comment came from the PTA. Its lobbyist stated that 98.4 percent of high schoolers are public school students, which would mean 1.6 percent of students are either in private school or homeschooled. While that number seems a bit inflated, if so, it’s ironic that so much panic has ensued from the public education lobby over a mere 1.6 percent of students!

The good news is that this is the farthest in the legislative process that this bill has traveled. For the first time, the bill passed out of the House of Delegates and made it to the Senate. We must continue to press forward, educating others on the fairness and importance of this legislation. The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, yet continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are homeschooled. This discriminatory practice must end. Just as we said with school choice, the day will come when homeschool kids are treated fairly and allowed to try out for sports teams!

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5 Responses to ““Tebow Bill” Fails In Senate Education And Health Committee”

  1. William Doss says:

    It’s time for someone to tell Harry Blevins that Virginia taxpayers own the schools of Virginia. The schools aren’t the property of the teachers, the school administrators, or even the PTA. The parents who homeschool their kids or send their kids to other alternative educational settings have every right to access to the coaches and sports equipment that EVERY parent, as a taxpayer, pays for. Shame on Harry Blevins. (The Democrats are, obviously, owned by the teachers’ unions. Their votes could go no other way.)

  2. Betsy Dickerson says:

    I woul love to have seen the tebow bill pass. We are conflicted on if we want to home school our kids because we don’t want them to miss out on opportunities to play sports and get involved with some activities.

  3. familyfoundation says:

    Betsy and William: Thanks for the comments. As for your situation, Betsy, you mentioned that on our Facebook page as well. Senator Jeff McWaters addressed that in refuting some opponents’ assertions (and I updated the post to reflect that — I put it on FB, but forgot to add it when editing this post). We’ll keep fighting the fight and it will come one day, just as education choice scholarships got passed this year after years of trying.

    - Steve, The Admin

  4. Gwendolyn Hudson-Henderson says:

    what are education choice scholarships?
    I love Virginia. I was born and raised here. Sometimes we really do stay in the dark on things. This bill would not have radically changed the world as we know it. It would have helped us take a baby step out of our dark ages thinking about home school. It would could have helped a few home school students tremendously. It would not have hurt the other thousands of public school students. As for knowing what we give up when we home school… that will change with time as more and more parents get frustrated with overcrowded schools full of over worked teachers and underserved students. Home school is an educational option that benefits many people (inside and outside of that child’s family). Please move forward Virginia!

    • familyfoundation says:

      Gwendolyn: Education choice scholarships are the scholarships that will be created with the passage of the education choice tax credit bill, SB 131 (http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=121&typ=bil&val=sb131) and HB 321 (http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+sum+HB321). Corporations and individuals will be granted a state tax credit for donations to scholarship funds from which underprivileged children can apply for and use for tuition at a private or religious school in order to leave an unsatisfactory public school. It is a first step toward real competition and choice in education in Virginia.

      As for your comments on homeschooling, we agree that in time things will change. It will take patience and persistence. We will keep up the fight and invite you (and to recruit others) and all interested in education reform, choice and competition to join with us in effecting change.

      - Steve, The Admin

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