‘Tebow Bill’ seeks homeschooler access to public school sports programsPoliticsSportsVirginia

An ongoing debate throughout the years has been the refusal in Virginia to allow homeschooled students the opportunity to participate in public school sports but now they may have an unlikely hero on their side.

Most Virginians have probably heard of 23-year-old Tim Tebow, the wildly popular Denver Broncos quarterback who led his team to the 2012 NFL playoffs and is famous for kneeling on one knee in prayer, something that has been deemed “Tebowing” and duplicated throughout the country.

Many came to know this young man during last year’s Super Bowl game when he was part of a Focus on the Family ad advocating pro-choice and noting that his mother had been advised by doctors to abort him when she became seriously ill during pregnancy but she chose not to follow their recommendations.

What they may not know is that Tebow was born of missionary parents, and that he was homeschooled in Florida, a state that allowed homeschool students to participate in public school sports. He went on to lead the University of Florida Gators to two national titles, won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, and was then recruited by the Denver Broncos.

Pretty heady stuff especially considering Virginia’s homeschooling students are continually refused that opportunity, therefore denying them the chance for sports scholarships.

Florida opened its sports programs to homeschoolers in 1996, allowing Tebow to play and work his way up the ranks. Twenty states across the nation allow homeschoolers to participate in sports but the Commonwealth isn’t one of them. Could there a Tim Tebow somewhere in Virginia just waiting for the opportunity to lead a high school and college team to victory and join a professional sports league?

Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), who has been a champion for Virginia homeschoolers for years, has introduced the “Tebow Bill” (HB 947) that would permit homeschoolers to try out for public school athletic programs.

HB 947 — Nonpublic school students; organizations governing participation in interscholastic programs — reads:

“Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) is receiving home instruction, (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two years, (iii) is entitled to free tuition in a public school, (iv) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current school year, (v) is an amateur who receives no compensation, but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity, (vi) complies with all disciplinary rules applicable to all public high school athletes, and (vii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, parental consents, and physical examinations applicable to all high school athletes. The bill allows such students to be charged reasonable fees for participation.”

The Virginia-based Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has followed access at schools nationwide. This issue is strongly resisted by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), the Virginia Education Association (VEA), the Virginia Secondary School Principals Association (VSSPA), and others who oppose allowing homeschoolers to put a foot in the athletic door. Reasons given have been everything from the suggestion that homeschoolers could “lay on the sofa all day” before going to practice to the concern that the actions of homeschoolers could not be controlled outside of a school activity.

Homeschooled students have proven over the years that they can keep up with their public school peers academically. Testimony to that is the number of homeschoolers who have been spelling bee winners and finalists, who have regularly outscored public school students on SAT and ACT tests, who have received higher education scholarships, and who have scored in research, work, academia, the military, and beyond.

Many of those home school families have asked to participate in sports programs, something they feel should be allowed since home school parents pay the same school taxes as everyone else but pay extra for their children’s education, receiving no benefit from those school tax dollars. For years, former Delegate Chris Saxman (R-20th House District) championed school choice and tax credits for home schoolers only to see the measures defeated.

Not all homeschoolers want access to public school sports and feel it would inch the government one step closer to controlling that segment of the population. Others participate in private, civic, and homeschool sports programs in their communities.

Perhaps one of the the strongest opponents to allowing access to public school sports is Delegate Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach), formerly a coach and football player from the 1950s. NBC-29 noted his objections:

Tata fears that opening high school sports to homeschoolers would weaken the system’s accountability and allow aggressive coaches at powerhouse sports schools to “recruit” home-schooled blue-chip players.

On Thursday, January 26, a House Education subcommittee will debate Bell’s legislation. Will 2012 be the year that Virginia homeschoolers break through the sports barrier?

Cross-posted at LynnRMitchell.com

  • TJ

    I am generally very supportive of homeschooling and homeschooler rights across the board. However, I believe that homeschooling is an all-or-none proposition. Either you elect to participate in public school activities or you do not. Hoigh school athletes are required to be in classes or they are not allow to play in games. There is simply no way to verify this requirement if a student athlete is homeschooled.

    Furthermore, once we allow homeschool student to play public school sports we will most likely have to allow private school students to play public school sports. We’ll encounter situations where a kid goes to a Catholic High School but wants to play football for the public school team because they have a better program.

    Basically, I don’t believe that education should be a-la-carte. And high school sports are part of “education.”

    • Antonio

      Why isn’t anybody mentioning the students? It’s chilling that nobody asks public school kids what they think. Yet you can find dozens of articles of what the rich, home schooled kids think. This is wholly unfair to public school students.
      We really have become an OLIGARCHY much like third world countries. Thirty years of poor leadership!

  • TJ

    PS -

    In states like Louisiana where there is a high homeschool population they have homeschool-only sports teams that draw from a geographic area. They compete againts public and private schools and are generally very competetive.

  • http://. Let’s Be Free

    Homeschoolers keep up with their public school peers academically? That’s the understatement of the year. When we put our homeschooled kid back in public school she skipped a grade and made the honor roll immediately. It’s an absurdity that public schools can’t be open and flexible enough to allow partnering with home school parents and students. The best education exposes kids to programs and perspectives from both worlds, real diversity.

  • Tom

    The question I have is where is this additional money coming from? The state pays schools based on the number of students, this seems like a convenient way to for localities to pay for the athletic desires of home schooled kids.

  • MD Russ

    Tom,

    The primary funding for public schools is property taxes paid in that city/county. State funding is secondary. Everyone pays property taxes, regardless of whether you have children in the public schools or not. Similarly, students should have access to public school extracurricular programs regardless of whether or not they attend public schools.

  • TJ

    I agree with your comment on taxpayer funded school programs, but where is the line (if anywhere)? Should a student be allowed to take public school classes for science and math, but be homeschooled for history and english? Should a student who attends private Catholic school be permitted to take several courses at a Catholic school and several classes at the public school in his town?
    The reason that these questions are important is because once we go down this road we will have to address this issue for every single class, club, and sport at every public school in the Commonwealth — whether the student in question is homeschooled or not.
    Nobody questions the fact that homeschooled kids are better taught than their public school counterparts. Nobody would argue ideologically that taxpayer funded programs shouldn’t be available to everyone in a town. But there are very, very serious questions that need to be answered befroe we declare as a Commonwelath that public school education is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition.

  • MD Russ

    TJ,

    I really don’t see the conflict here. What is so sacrosanct about a public school being “all or nothing?” Students at private colleges and universities can take summer or night courses at public universities, use their libraries, etc.

    As Lynn pointed out in her post, there are 20 states who allow home schoolers to participate in public school sports. I suspect that the opposition to this is being driven by the VEA and other self-interest groups who want to make alternative education as inconvenient and uncomfortable as possible to drive students back into the public schools. Any other argument just doesn’t pass the Giggle Test.

  • http://www.advrider.com James “turbo” Cohen

    VOUCHERS!

  • MD Russ

    Not a good idea, Turbo. Vouchers take all the pressure off the public school system for accountability and performance. Only the lowest economic strata will keep their kids in public schools and they have the weakest political voice. If you want to see the inevitable result, take a look at the DC public schools even without vouchers. Affluent parents send their kids to private schools, talented and gifted kids of less affluent parents either get a private school scholarship or go to a better charter school, and the rest get warehoused with borderline competent teachers and administrators. As they say, if you think that education is expensive then try ignorance. Public education is not just a right in our country, it is a societal responsibility. We need to make our schools work, not abandon them to deal only with the least fortunate among us. And that is why we all pay property taxes. If you can afford the taxes and still afford alternative education, fine. But don’t expect the government to subsidize that alternative.

  • LittleDavid

    MD Russ,

    I think your opinion is very informed and takes into consideration most of the intricate details of this complicated subject.

    Personally, I respect the rights of a parent to home school their kids. Their kids just need to pass at least the minimum SOL (Standards Of Learning) tests as a result of the schooling.

    I do not think there is anything wrong with such a home schooled child taking advantage of some of the classes available from the Public School System that the parent or student feels there is some additional benefit to be obtained through participating in it. Some might accuse this of being like a smorgasbord, however the resident is paying all of the property taxes, so why should they forced into an all or nothing decision?

    I am much more troubled by the charter schools. I am hearing that they are less successful even when allowed to discriminate with who they will school. Even though they are allowed to dispel the difficult and disruptive students, their results, overall are not much better then the public schools. This is despite that they are allowed to bottom blow the most difficult cases onto the public schools who must take all warm bodies no matter how difficult.

    But getting back to the topic, if the home schooled kid is good enough to make the team, he/she should be allowed to participate. His participation is not going to increase the costs of the team although his participation might displace one other from participation. His parents paid their taxes too didn’t they, so what if the only benefit they get for their tax dollars is participation in competitive sports?

    That’s why I am so in favor of the SOL’s. Various interests complain about them, but we need to have a yardstick. If there is one problem or another with them, OK, then improve them but do not give up on them. I am going to continue to insist on them.

  • Sharon

    @TJ

    You reference in areas of LA with “high homeschool populations.” In my part of VA, the homeschool population is not large enough to form teams to compete against public or private schools. I’ll be the first to admit that the public school has superior competitive, athletic opportunities–that I help pay for.

  • http://bearingdrift.com Steven Osborne

    Homeschool parents help to pay for those atheletic programs and they should have access to them.

  • Don

    Vouchers would be ruled in violation of Virginia Constitution. However, Tax Credits would be allowed. I refer you to

    http://dls.state.va.us/pubs/briefs/brief27.htm

  • Don

    SOLs are a joke! In 2009, 89% of Virginia 4th graders passed the SOL reading test. However, only 38% passed the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test. SOL tests are proctored by public school teachers while NAEP tests are proctored by federal administrators. The NAEP test isn’t “dumbed down” and it isn’t easy to cheat on. ODU professor Maurice Berube has researched SOLs extensively and has concluded that SOLs should be replaced by the NAEP.

  • Don
  • Ronald Robinson

    TJ is a big talker, but he/she won’t post their name. And “all or nothing” is for Soviets, Communist Chinese, and the Taliban.

    Ronald Robinson