Facing its biggest legislative challenge, not unlike the last-minute, game-on-the-line-drive some young athlete who would benefit from the bill may one day lead, HB 1442, the often-called "Tebow Bill," will be considered tomorrow in the Senate Education and Health Committee. The bill would assist home school students in participating in public school sports and is a top priority for The Family Foundation.
The legislation, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), would break down barriers that prevent home school students from playing public high school sports by prohibiting localities from joining the Virginia High School League, a pseudo-state/private entity that regulates public school sports. Under the provisions of the measure, localities would not be able to contract with VHSL if they don't allow home school students to participate. Half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provides opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports.
Remarkably, yesterday, even the liberal Washington Post editorial board came out in favor of the "Tebow Bill"! Last year, the New York Times reported on the bill, and quoted school officials in other states who expressed the same fears the VHSL now mimics when their legislatures debated similar legislation. But after the law took affect, they found their fears misplaced. Polling done earlier this session by VCU's Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute showed that nearly two-thirds of Virginians support fairness for home school students in participating in public school sports. This mirrored our own poll, one year ago, done by Mason-Dixon.
Last year, a similar proposal was defeated in Ed and Health by one vote. If you can attend the meeting to show support, please be there promptly at 8:00 a.m. Though the bill could be heard anytime that morning, seating is limited so you want to be there on time! A crowd of supporters, particularly home school families, can make a big difference!
In essence, all we are asking for is a chance for home school kids to try out. This bill doesn't force any home school student to participate in any activity. It simply requires that the Virginia High School League allow home school students to try out for sports teams or public schools can't contract with VHSL. The bill also requires home school students who participate to meet the disciplinary requirements and allows for families to be charged any fees associated with participation. Local school systems could also add requirements.
The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are home schooled. This discriminatory practice must end.
Opponents such as the VHSL, the Virginia Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association, are doing all that they can to prevent this bill from passing. It's late in the game and your help is needed. Your voice is critical to the success of this bill.