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‘Tebow Bill’ Passes House, Awaits Senate Action

If enacted into law, the measure would allow home-schooled students to try out for teams at public schools.

By Paige Baxter
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Home-schooled students in Virginia could participate in public school sports under the so-called “Tebow bill” that has been passed by the House and will be considered by a Senate committee this week.

Delegates voted 56-43 for House Bill 1442, which will be heard by the Senate Health and Education Committee Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell (R-Albemarle) would require public schools to allow home-schoolers to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. Of the delegates who represent Loudoun in the General Assembly, only Tom Rust (R-86) voted against the measure.

Many parents who home-school their children support the legislation, which is nicknamed for NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for his local high school while being home-schooled in Florida.

“I should be able to choose whether my kids play sports or not,” said Brad Foster, the father of five athletic home-schooled boys in Culpeper.

Currently in Virginia, no student who is being educated at home can join a public school sports team during the regular season. Families with home-schooled athletes like Foster’s must find other ways to participate in sports or opt out of playing sports completely.

Foster said the opportunity for his children to play sports goes away once they reached middle school. To allow his children to play sports, Foster has organized a basketball team. However, that’s expensive because home-schooling families must rent gym space whereas public schools provide everything for sports teams, Foster said.

“We want to use the privilege because we also pay taxes for [public schools] as well,” Foster said. Parents who home-school their children are not exempt from taxes.

Virginia has more than 32,000 home-schoolers, including about 8,000 at the high school level, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Albemarle County, for example, has more than 500 home-schoolers.

The Keyser family in Albemarle County also has struggled with the problem. Ethan Keyser, 17, is a junior in high school and likes to play football and lacrosse.

“I would like the opportunity to try out on a high school athletic team,” Ethan said.

Until high school, he played both sports because of various recreation teams, according to his father, Matt Keyser. Now that Ethan is in high school, he cannot play either sport except during off-season.

During off-season, Ethan was asked to play for several traveling high-school lacrosse teams, Matt Keyser said.

“He’s 6-foot-one, 210 pounds, and every coach he has ever played for said they wished Ethan could play during the regular season,” Keyser said.

Ethan is now looking to apply for college. “It would’ve looked good on my college transcripts to have that I played several high school sports,” he said.

When the House voted on HB 1442 on Jan. 31, Republicans generally supported the legislation and Democrats mostly opposed it.

Dels. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), for instance, both voted against bill.

“The public school system is not an a la carte menu that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in,” McClellan said. She said the “Tebow bill” raises a “matter of fairness.”

Toscano agreed.

“One worry is that you would have a situation where a youngster in a public school was denied to participate because a home-schooler took their spot,” he said.

After passing the House, HB 1442 was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health. The committee’s next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Senate Room B in the General Assembly Building. If the committee approves the bill, it will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Lynchburg) on Jan. 31 withdrew an identical measure, Senate Bill 812, that he had filed in December.

Richard Albury February 11, 2013 at 02:23 PM
This makes no sense: if you want to homeschool your kids, that's fine, I guess, but you shouldn't get to have your cake and eat it too.
Martika February 11, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Why not hear the voices of the high school teams? Student and coaches should have a voice in this once seemingly debate. Student voice is crucial for any success.
Edgar Winter February 11, 2013 at 06:44 PM
And how long will it take before the homeschool parents start to complain that the secular public school teams and schools won't let them advertise their beliefs or try to encourage something that isn't, well done at the public schools. If they are going to play sports and be in the clubs, then they need to be just like all the other public school kids and accept that certain things just aren't allowed on public school property.
CityGirlinBurbs February 11, 2013 at 08:11 PM
“I should be able to choose whether my kids play sports or not,” said Brad Foster, the father of five athletic home-schooled boys in Culpeper. He chose when he decided to homeschool his child. Can't have it both ways.
Sandy Kane February 12, 2013 at 01:13 PM
We need to remember that parents who homeschool their children pay Loudoun County taxes the same as is required of all its residents. Therefore, their children should be permitted to try out and play for any sports team in the school district in which the reside.
Richard Albury February 12, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Nope: people who don't have children in school pay taxes too, so the tax argument is specious. Homeschoolers usually do so (not always, but much of the time) because they're fundies who want to teach their kids the earth is flat and only about 6,000 years old. They have chosen not to participate in the public school system, so they should not derive any of its benefits.
Sandy Kane February 12, 2013 at 03:58 PM
As a resident of Loudoun County, EVERY household that pays real estate taxes is paying 80 cents out of every dollar into the County's school budget. Therefore, families that homeschool children that pay real estate taxes, in fact, help to financially support the school system. This has been confirmed by the Loudoun County's Treasurer's office.
VA_in_VA February 12, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Many are claiming that EVERY household pays real estate taxes. So what if they don't own a house and pay real estate taxes? Do they get denied? Is it "equal treatment" for everyone or are we back to the old constitutional claim that only land-owner's have true rights?
Anthony Fasolo February 12, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Agree. He can also choose which local "out of school" teams his child can play on.

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