Virginia's homeschooled students should have the same opportunities to participate in public school sports as their peers, argued the head of a conservative legal group in support of the state's so-called "Tim Tebow Law."
John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is urging the Virginia General Assembly to adopt House Bill 947. The law would give homeschooled students the chance to try out and participate for sports in the local public school system.
"This will give children who are athletically gifted a chance to pursue their dreams and possibly attain scholarships," Whitehead told The Christian Post. "In America, given the chance to succeed is all it takes, much like Tim Tebow has."
He added that "it's very much a taxpayer issue" and that "parents of homeschooled children pay the same taxes other families pay to support the activities and programs of public schools. They should have access to the programs, including athletic programs, their hard-earned dollars support."
The proposed law is nicknamed after Denver Broncos quarterback and Heisman-trophy winner Tim Tebow, a homeschooled athlete.
"Ultimately, the policies of the Commonwealth should foster and support the development of our children in all areas, and House Bill 947 would do that by providing home schooled students with opportunities to develop their talents and skills in the athletic arena – opportunities that they have heretofore been denied," writes Whitehead in a letter to Virginia House members, dated Feb. 7.
"The chance to compete with one's peers, to fully develop one's potential, and to perhaps earn a scholarship to attend an institution of higher learning that might otherwise not be within a family's reach should be available to all Virginia students, including homeschooled students."
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has voiced support for the bill, saying it would help correct the discrimination of barring homeschooled student from public sports teams.
Currently, there are 28 states that allow homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic sports. Whitehead hopes to add Virginia to the list.
"It's very much a competition issue," Whitehead told CP. "It's the public school hierarchy who sees it as a threat. Why shouldn't [all] kids be allowed to play?"
Opponents of H.B. 947, however, have expressed a number of concerns, including fairness, academic eligibility and possible future recruitment opportunities. Athletes enrolled in public schools are required to meet certain academic levels in order to be part of the team. But there is concern about how to measure homeschooled academic performance and make the system fair.
But Whitehead pointed to his Feb. 7 letter to the Virginia General Assembly that says under H.B. 947, homeschoolers would be required to demonstrate their academic ability for two years prior to trying out for the team. They would also be restricted to their public school zone depending on which area of the state they reside in.
"America stands for freedom and liberty," Whitehead said. "Why would we not be for this? If I had a homeschooler, I would hope my child would be allowed to participate."