(Photo: Reuters / Rick Wilking)
The Virginia House Education Committee has passed the "Tim Tebow Bill," which would allow home-schooled children to play varsity sports for public schools, in a 14-8 vote Wednesday.
Bill HB 947, named for the Denver Broncos quarterback who was also home-schooled, looks to amend the Code of Virginia that prohibits "participation in public school interscholastic programs by nonpublic school students."
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has presented the bill as part of his education package. HB 947 is expected to pass the House floor, where Republicans hold two-thirds of the seats.
The "Tebow Bill" has garnered both support and criticism. Advocates of HB 947 say that home-schoolers should be allowed to join interscholastic sports because everyone has to pay the same taxes that support the public schools.
Patrick Foss, a 17-year-old home-schooled junior who currently ranked by ESPN as number 16 among the nation's college soccer prospects, said he has played on a national team, but not in his own community. The teen has since pledged to sign a soccer scholarship in 2013 with the University of Virginia.
"One of the major reasons I chose UVA was the opportunity to represent my home state, Virginia, the same state that has deemed it inappropriate for me to play for my neighborhood high school," Foss said, according to The Associated Press. "Every Friday night, I see the lights come on at my local high school and I wonder what it must be like to play in front of a hometown crowd."
However, those who oppose the bill allege that it is unfair for children who attend classes and take exams to compete for roster spots with students who are home all day. Among dissenters are the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and Virginia Education Association, both of which represent 60,000 public school teachers.
Frank Cardella, with the Chesterfield Teachers Association, believes that home-schooled children would be using public schools for its entertainment value, WTVR news reported.
"Either you believe in the school system and you want to be a part of it, or you don't believe in the school system," Cardella stated.
"We've cut back on teachers, we've cut back on coaches and then ask them to take on additional kids that aren't part of the school community, you're asking them to pick up the responsibility of students who have no tie to the school."
Despite its prediction to pass in the House, the Bill might hit a snag in the Senate – where Republicans control only half of the 40 seats.