Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th House District) has carried the Tebow Bill, named after Tim Tebow, the 25-year-old quarterback for the New York Jets who was homeschooled, to the Virginia General Assembly the past two years. It failed to pass but, undeterred, Bell will introduce it again in the 2013 session.
The bill would expand options for homeschool students by allowing them to participate in sports and extracurricular activities at their local high schools, much as the homeschooled Tebow was allowed to play football with his local public high school team in Florida. For some, it’s a way to participate in team sports that may not be available through their homeschool association. For others, it may be a means to earn college sports scholarships to help pay for higher education.
Twenty-nine states already allow homeschoolers to play high school sports. In Virginia, that option is not available and, while some homeschool families are not interested in public school access, the Tebow Bill would provide a choice for families who are interested.
Bell wrote in the Home Educators Association of Virginia newsletter explaining why he is working to pass the Tebow Bill:
What stops homeschoolers from playing?
Individual schools can set their own internal rules, but when the time comes for the actual game, the competition is governed by the Virginia High School League (VHSL). The VHSL has rules that effectively bar homeschoolers from playing, including the “take five, pass five” rule that requires students to take and pass certain classes in school. The VHSL prohibition applies even to those schools that want homeschoolers on their teams.
Opponents of the “Tebow Bill” claim that a student can’t truly represent the school unless he attends classes in the building, or that it is unfair to have different rules for different students. Some fear that the homeschooler will take “a slot,” thereby bumping another student from the team.
But we live here too!
These arguments miss the point. Homeschool students are being legally educated pursuant to Virginia law. Their parents pay taxes that support the school. Besides, not every athlete “walks the halls” of the school — dual-enrolled public school students who take classes at a community college can play sports even if they never set foot inside the high school. It is only homeschoolers who are excluded.
How do we fix this?
For several years, I have proposed the “Tebow Bill,” which would give local schools the authority to let homeschoolers play. To keep things fair, it includes requirements that students pass their homeschooling tests, live in the school district, and follow all the rules of the team. There would be no reserved slots or quotas. This option is not for everyone, and the “Tebow Bill” would not require homeschoolers to join high school sports — it would simply allow those homeschoolers who are interested to try out. From its beginning, the homeschool movement has emphasized providing choices and empowering parents, and this bill gives parents an option.
Although some homeschoolers worry that a “Tebow Bill” would open the door to new homeschooling regulations, I believe this is no longer the primary challenge for homeschoolers. In the last two decades, homeschooling has expanded eight-fold in Virginia, and has become a truly mainstream education choice. Many homeschool students access local schools for “partial enrollment” classes or extra-curricular programs not governed by the VHSL. All of these have made homeschooling more accessible to parents, and none have led to new homeschool regulations.
How you can help
As I visit co-ops and support groups, I hear that a clear majority of homeschool parents support the bill — even if they don’t plan to use it themselves. However, in the General Assembly we are still several votes shy of passage. You can help by contacting your state legislators, sharing your thoughts, and introducing them to your students so they can see who might benefit. You can also testify in Richmond.
If you want to stay involved, sign the online petition at www.VirginiaTebowBill.com.
With your help, we can make this change and expand choices for homeschoolers in Virginia!
The bill, defeated during last year’s General Assembly after Bell’s work for two years to reach some kind of consensus with opponents, will be reintroduced in January 2013 after consulting with the VaHomeschoolers Association.
Bell, an attorney and Virginia legislator who is running for Attorney General, whose younger siblings were homeschooled, is not giving up. For those interested in helping, find your representative here and ask that they s/he support the Tebow Bill.
Tim Tebow is a professional athlete who is a Christian role model for others including the homeschool students who look up to him. This post tells of the many things he has done to reach out to those less fortunate than he.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th House) is the patron of the Tebow Bill (HB 947). He was the recipient of HEAV’s 2006 award for “Outstanding Leadership in Advancing the Rights of Home-Educating Parents.” He was an Honors Graduate from the University of Virginia and UVA Law School. A candidate for Virginia Attorney General in 2013, Delegate Bell lives in Albemarle County with his wife and two young children.