It’s a first! ‘Tebow Bill’ goes to full House for vote

For the first time ever, a homeschooler sports access bill has passed out of the House Education committee to go to the floor of the House of Delegates.

This morning with a vote of 14-8, HB 947, also known as the “Tebow Bill,” passed with a sunset amendment that was attached by Del. Steve Landes (R-25th House) that would limit it to a four-year trial period. Both Landes and Del. Dickie Bell (R-20th House), who represent the Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County areas, voted yes.

A phone call from the bill’s sponsor, Del. Rob Bell (R-58th House) from the House floor this morning confirmed the bill had passed and would move to the full House.

At no time during my sixteen years educating my children at home or as president of Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH) or as legislative liaison for that group do I remember a homeschool sports access bill passing out of the full committee and making it to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

The bill has a lot of support. Governor Bob McDonnell (R) is for it. Delegate Rob Bell sponsored it. The Family Foundation backs it. Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) also backs it as well as the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers.

Patrons of the bill in the House, besides Rob Bell, are J. Randall Minchew (chief co-patron), David I. Ramadan (chief co-patron), and Peter F. Ferrell. They were joined by Sen. Ryan McDougle.

HB 947 – Nonpublic school students; organizations governing participation in interscholastic programs – is summarized as:

Nonpublic school students; participation in interscholastic programs. 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.

See the full text here.

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers laid out the case for supporting HB 947:

•Virginia’s homeschooled students would benefit from the opportunity to participate in athletic and other interscholastic programs governed by the Virginia High School League, but VHSL’s current eligibility requirements specifically exclude homeschooled students.

•Homeschooled students in Virginia’s rural communities would particularly benefit. In small, rural communities there are few options for homeschooled teens to play team sports or participate in other activities — particularly at the high school level — except through public school programs.

•Homeschool sports and activities access is working smoothly in 28 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah and others. HB 947 is an approach that will work in Virginia.

•High school interscholastic programs are an important opportunity to qualify for college scholarships. Currently homeschooled students are denied the opportunity for that exposure.

•Homeschool sports access will strengthen community support for high school programs. Homeschooling families are already active, committed members of the community, and the addition of homeschooled students would expand the base of families involved in high school interscholastic programs.

•Homeschooled students in Virginia need legislative support in order to be allowed to try out for their local high school interscholastic programs. Despite significant effort by homeschooling organizations to work with members of VHSL to develop fair, reasonable and practical eligibility guidelines for homeschooled students, VHSL has refused to consider any change. Virginia’s homeschooled students are depending on the General Assembly for a chance to try out.

It it passes the House, HB 947 will cross over to the Senate in two weeks where it may face a tougher audience in that evenly-divided chamber.

Our thanks to Rob Bell for his continued support of homeschool families by again submitting the homeschool sports access bill this year and not giving up, something those families may remember when he runs for Attorney General in 2013.

Cross-posted at

  • kelley in virginia

    good job Rob Bell

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  • David

    Thank goodness this bill was defeated in committee. If it passes, it would be impossible for schools to fairly regulate home school students.
    These families make the choice to not participate in the public school system, and that’s fine. But our public schools are not a buffet line; you can’t pick and choose what you want to participate in.

  • Steve Vaughan

    I was kind of on the fence about this but we got a letter to the editor from a high school football player which reminded me that there’s more to high school football than showing up on game night, there’s wearing the game day jerseys through the hall, there’s pep rallies, there’s hating you school’s traditional rival, not sure how home schoolers really get any of that. Also, was the bill drawn to require the home school student to play for the school he would normally go to based on where he lives? Otherwise, i could see the ugly spectre of recruiting moving from college ball to high schools. If the next Tim Tebow was being home schooled in Chesterfield County, I can see all the counties coaches manuevering to try to get him to come to their school.

  • OK Steve, you make a valid point. So then if the home schooled kid is forced to play for only the team he would have played for if he was in Public School, will you cease your objections?

    I think the point you make is valid, and consideration for the point should be included in the legislation. But are you only proposing the improvement to thwart the goal, or will you be willing to live with the legislation after it is improved?

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