By Lynn R. Mitchell
The Facebook post from Delegate Rob Bell shared the good news:
Tebow Bill Passes Senate Committee 8-6! (First time it has ever gotten this far!) Thanks to all the homeschoolers who came to the Capitol to testify.
After testimony from homeschool students — some barely tall enough to see over the podium — and parents from around the Commonwealth who attended the hearing in the State Capitol, the bill passed out of the Senate Education and Health Committee Thursday morning. It will now be taken up by the full Senate, possibly as soon as Monday, February 16.
The two largest homeschool organizations in the state, Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) and VaHomescholers, both support this sports access bill.
VaHomeschoolers wrote on their website (see Homeschoolers’ sports access):
While homeschoolers in Virginia are allowed to enroll part-time in public school classes, they are currently not allowed to play on public high school interscholastic sports teams due to regulations established by the Virginia High School League (VHSL). The VHSL writes athletic eligibility rules and guidelines that all of its member public high schools in the state must follow.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers supports homeschool access to public school programs and services and since 1997 has worked to increase access at the state and local level. We have attempted numerous times to work with VHSL and other public school organizations to develop voluntary agreements to support the inclusion of qualified homeschooled students in VHSL programs. VaHomeschoolers is the only statewide homeschooling organization that has consistently lobbied in favor of sports access legislation (“Tebow Bills”) in the Virginia General Assembly.
What is the latest on this issue?
There is a bill in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly aimed at allowing homeschooled students the opportunity to participate in sports and other competitive interscholastic activities (such as debate) at their local public high schools: HB 1626, patroned by Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) and Del. David Ramadan (R-South Riding). This bill is nearly identical to last year’s legislation, and would prohibit Virginia school divisions from being members of the Virginia High School League unless the league modifies its eligibility rules to include homeschooled students, subject to a number of rules and requirements. Homeschoolers would only be eligible to try out at the public high school assigned to their residence, and would have to have homeschooled for two full, consecutive academic years in compliance with the home instruction statute. The bill also includes other eligibility restrictions for homeschoolers, in line with many of the requirements for public school students. Just as in 2013, this legislation would allow public school systems to decide the question of homeschool eligibility at the local level, since it states that homeschool eligibility “shall be subject to all policies governing such participation that the local school board may establish.”
More background on this bill can be found here (see Rob Bell’s ‘Tebow Bill’ goes to Senate committee).
More on Tim Tebow, the homeschooled former quarterback for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets (see A homeschooler wins the Heisman and Tim Tebow will provide Valentine’s Day special needs promise across nation).