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 LynnRMitchell.com