A bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would have allowed homeschooled children to take part in public school interscholastic activities like sports has failed to advance.
Dubbed the "Tim Tebow Bill" after Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who though homeschooled nevertheless took part in high school football in Florida, HB 947 was defeated Thursday in an 8-7 vote in the Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health.
According to its text, if enacted HB 947 would have prohibited "public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who is receiving home instruction."
It was one of three bills introduced in this session that would have required public schools in the Commonwealth to consider homeschooled students for extracurricular activities. These included HB 1005, which was sponsored by Delegate David Ramadan (R-South Riding) and HB 905, which was sponsored by Delegate Randy Minchew (R-Leesburg).
HB 947 passed in the lower house of the General Assembly, the House of Delegates, in a vote of 59 to 39. From the House it went to the Senate Committee on Education and Health and was referred to the Subcommittee on Public Education.
The bill had several cosponsors, both members of the House of Delegates and the State Senate, all of whom were Republican.
The vote in the Senate Committee was largely party line with Republicans supporting HB 947 and Democrats opposing. State Senator Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake) was the lone Republican who voted against the bill, providing the crucial vote that killed the bill.
Homeschooling organizations in the Commonwealth had been supportive of the legislation. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers commented that the bill would benefit homeschooled students in many ways.
"High school interscholastic programs are an important opportunity to qualify for college scholarships. Currently homeschooled students are denied the opportunity for that exposure," said the OVH in a statement.
"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."
Others like Bob Cook, opinion contributor for Forbes Magazine, was critical of the legislation, believing that there were valid reasons for groups like the Virginia High School League having a ban on homeschooled student participants.
"State associations, such as Virginia's, have had bans because of worries regarding an inability to check academic status, and that homeschoolers could jump from school to school for athletic purposes," wrote Cook.
Currently, 25 states in America allow for non-public school students to take part in public school sponsored sports activities.