One of The Family Foundation's highest priorities this year will be voted on in the House of Delegates tomorrow. HB 63, often called the "Tebow Bill," is legislation that would assist home school students in participating in public school sports (see the video of the House Education Sub-Committee debate here). The home school sports bill, once again this year 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 (and which lobbies the legislature contrary to its own bylaws). 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 try out for public school sports. Polling indicates that nearly two-thirds of Virginians support fairness for home schoolers.
No home school student is guaranteed an opportunity on a team. They are simply given the opportunity to try out. After years of angst over the proposal in other states, once passed, the fears of the education establishment have gone unproven. In Florida, the executive director of that state's high school sports league said:
There was great opposition; principals felt like if my school is not good enough for you, why should my athletics be good enough? Now everybody's pretty much accepting of it. We had a big fuss over not much.
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.
Also on the House floor tomorrow, delegates will vote on HB 388, a bill that makes the charter school option more accessible to special needs children. Patroned by freshman Delegate Glenn Davis (R-84, Virginia Beach), HB 388 levels the charter school funding playing field for special needs students. The already allocated money will follow the student if this bill becomes law, preventing school districts from using it for their conventional public schools. It has no fiscal impact to the state or school districts and is another incremental step toward more school choice and education competition.
Critics unsuccessfully tried to paint this bill as an unfunded mandate. But, in fact, it ensures existing money is passed through the school system properly. It protects charter school funding — and therefore school choice for special needs students — from being used by school districts for other purposes. The already allocated money would then be applied to fixed costs, such as hiring teachers, purchasing equipment and other essentials, so that charter schools and disabled students have the same opportunity students at other public schools have.
Both bills faced tough roads in the Republican dominated Education Committee. HB 63 got by on a 13-8 vote, while HB 388 reported only by a 12-10 vote. In short, there are enough potential votes to derail either or both bills. Please contact your delegate and ask him or her to vote for both HB 63 and HB 388.
ACTION: Please click here to contact your delegate today and urge them to vote in favor HB 63 (the "Tebow Bill") and HB 388, to help further school choice in public education for special needs children!