‘Tebow Bill’ Back For Another Round

Legislation Would Give Home-Schooled Youth Access To Public School Activities

Posted: January 7, 2014

HARRISONBURG — The hopes for a bill that will give home-schoolers access to public school activities could be decided in the opening days of the General Assembly.

Since 2010, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, has introduced the measure each session, and for the last two years seen it fall one vote short, by an 8-7 tally, in the Senate Education and Health Committee after passing the full House.

The legislation would prohibit school divisions from joining an organization that bans home-schooled students from public competition. The Virginia High School League, the governing body for interscholastic activities in the state, does not grant home-schoolers permission to compete.

The Senate committee will have a new configuration this year when the 40-member chamber votes on committee assignments Wednesday, the first day of the legislative session. Bell is encouraged by the fact that a “no” vote from the committee has retired in Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, and been replaced in office by someone who has voted “yes” previously, Republican Del. John Cosgrove.

But the Senate may not simply slot Cosgrove in for Blevins on the committee, which had all seven of its Democrats vote against the bill along with Blevins, a retired educator.

“That’s the part we don’t know,” Bell said.

Committee assignments could also be shook up more depending on the outcome of a pair of special elections and what party holds a majority in the chamber, said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon.

Sens. Ralph Northam and Mark Herring, both Democrats, will take office as lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, on Saturday. Special elections are planned to fill their seats today for Northam and Jan. 21 for Herring.

Republicans and Democrats share power in the Senate, with 20 members from each party. The lieutenant governor, currently Republican Bill Bolling, breaks ties, giving GOP the power to control committee assignments now.

Northam is succeeding Bolling.

What is known is the arguments both sides will make on Bell’s proposal. Supporters of the bill — commonly called the “Tebow Bill” for Tim Tebow, a former home-schooled student who became a football star at the University of Florida — say parents of home-schoolers pay taxes just as public school parents, so they should have equal access to public places, such as a football field.

Opponents, including Harrisonburg and Rockingham County school leaders, argue that it’d be unfair to give a roster spot to a child who does not attend a school and that parents cannot pick and choose what aspect of the school system to use.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com

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