‘Tebow Bill’ Clears Hurdle
House Passage Expected Today
Posted: January 31, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Much like its namesake, the “Tebow bill” continues to stir debate.
On Wednesday, the House of Delegates moved the legislation forward for a final vote today. It prohibits school divisions from joining an organization that disallows home-schooled student participation, such as the Virginia High School League.
“These are young people in Virginia; they’re following the law. All they want to do is try out for their local teams,” said bill patron Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle.
The bill is named after New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, who rose to stardom as a home-schooled student in Florida playing for a public school team and has become a subject of debate among football fans for everything from his profound Christian faith to his unorthodox throwing motion.
Bell’s bill causes nearly equal amounts of argument.
The bill passed by a 59-39 vote in the House for the first time in three tries last year. It then fell one vote shy in the Senate Education and Health Committee.
On Wednesday, House members offered a verbal vote to send the bill to a final reading today. House Speaker Bill Howell, however, could not determine if a majority of delegates affirmed the bill, so he asked for a closed vote in which lawmakers raised their hands for or against the measure.
Results of that tally favored the bill, but it’s unclear by how wide of a margin. Howell told three delegates that their votes did not count because they were not in their seats when they voted.
In a phone interview, Bell said the margin was not close, and he expects a result similar to last year’s House vote to occur today.
The legislation causes controversy because some lawmakers and school officials worry about the fairness of taking roster spots away from public school students. Opponents also worry about the eligibility standards for home-schoolers.
Del. Robert Orrock Sr., R-Caroline, spoke against the bill on the House floor.
“The public school system is an entire educational program,” he said. “We don’t have a system where you can pick and choose.”
Bell says parents of home-schooled students pay taxes that build public schools and their children deserve to use those facilities. The bill requires that students meet home-school testing requirements for two years in a row to prove they are making progress and that they live in the school district they want to play in.
The Senate Education and Health Committee will review the Senate version of the legislation this morning.
If the home-school measure survives to the Senate floor for the first time, it has the support of Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.
“Whether a family chooses a public or home-school option for their children, they’re paying taxes to support public education,” he said in an email. “With their tax dollars supporting it, I believe it’s perfectly reasonable for home-school kids to have an opportunity to participate in high school sports.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell also supports the bill, spokesman Jeff Caldwell said.
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