Delegate Rob Bell
The Tebow Bill was sacked by Republican State Senator Harry Blevins and is finished for the 2013 General Assembly. As long as there are Republicans willing to kill the bill, who needs Democrats?
HB 1442, commonly known as the Tebow Bill after the homeschooled quarterback who played football for Denver and New York, was defeated by an 8-7 vote in the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee. Committee members voted along party lines with Dems voting against and Republicans voting for ... except Republican Blevins (R-Chesapeake) who joined the Democrats in voting against Delegate Rob Bell's bill.
Déjà vu. The same bill was killed in the same committee last year by ... you guessed it ... the same senator, Harry Blevins.
It's difficult to understand why public school supporters are so fearful of this bill. It simply offers the possibility of playing high school sports. It does not guarantee anything. Parents of homeschooled students pay taxes just like everyone else, a fact many do not realize, and yet they are refused access to taxpayer-funded facilities.
As Bearing Drift wrote last year when this bill was defeated, "If the high school coaches and other school officials are so adverse to letting in these pesky homeschool kids then maybe they should advocate for the privatization of all public school sports. But until they do that, their argument is dead in the water."
Amazingly, even the Washington Post editorialized in favor of the bill, noting:
Our reservations about the so-called “Tebow Bill” have been rooted in a belief that issues about athletic eligibility, student activities and what constitutes a school community shouldn’t be usurped by Richmond.The Post continued:
It is clear, though, that the group entrusted with helping to make those determinations needs to revisit rules that have become too rigid. Local school districts that want to include home-schooled students are barred from even trying.
The legislation — its nickname refers to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played on a high school team in Florida while he was home-schooled — has been introduced in Virginia since 2005 but has died in the face of opposition from statewide education organizations.
The current ban against home-schoolers is the result of long-standing policy set by the Virginia High School League, which governs interscholastic sports and other activities in Virginia’s more than 300 high schools. Home-schooled students, league officials have argued, don’t have to meet the same attendance and academic criteria as public-school students, and that makes for an unfair playing field. No doubt the issues are complicated and, for many, emotional. But 26 other states have managed to allow home-schoolers to play sports, either by right or through local option, with apparent success. In Virginia, elementary and middle school students participate in public-school activities with no problems.Delegate Bell addressed the bill's defeat with disappointment and optimism:
"I am confident that we will ultimately prevail. I have supported versions of this bill since 2005, and have been the patron in 2010, 2011, 2012, and this year. This year’s bill passed the House 56-43 and even the Washington Post changed its previous position to support it.A family legacy continues ... a homeschooling pioneer's son continues the battle on behalf of Virginia homeschoolers.
Homeschool bills sometimes take time to pass because we have to educate legislators about the benefits of homeschooling. My mother testified to the General Assembly in 1984 in support of Virginia’s original homeschooling law – back then, homeschooling truly was unusual!
Even as recently as 2004, my previous homeschooling bill (to expand homeschooling for high school educated parents) was vetoed by Governor Warner. We weren’t able to get it passed until he left and Governor Kaine signed it into law 2006. Once everyone truly understood what we were trying to do, passing the bill was easy.
To that end, I would encourage you to reach out to your Senators and Delegates – especially if they voted against the bill. Set up a meeting, or take them to a dutch treat lunch. Our best ambassadors are the homeschooled students themselves, so make sure to bring them along. I am firmly convinced that if we stay at this, we will be successful. You can find contact information for your legislators here. [emphasis added]
State Senator Steve Martin reported the defeat of the Tebow Bill on his Facebook page:
"The 'Tebow' bill failed in committee by a vote of 7-8, despite our tireless work toward its passage. This bill allows a local school district to choose to let homeschoolers participate in HS athletics. We were not able to move either of the two targeted votes to move our way. The young people who came before us did an amazing job. The opposition spoke of 'choice' in education (which they actually oppose) and that the reason public schools exist is to impose 'rules' to which we must adhere. Strange arguments. The bill itself is about allowing choice. I felt the opposition's arguments made a greater case for the passage of the bill."Among the more than 50 pro and con comments left on Senator Martin's page was this one:
So let me get this straight--folks want to give undocumented immigrants spots in our state run universities at in-state tuition rates but we don't want the home-schooled kids of tax paying citizens to have access to the benefits of the schools their taxes support ... really??????For a good understanding of the Tebow Bill, see Delegate Bell's explanation. Meanwhile, perhaps with continued education, attitudes will change in Richmond and around the Commonwealth.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th House) patroned 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.