VaHomeschoolers Legislative Report – January 30, 2012

by Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs

Critical Point Fast Approaching for HB 947, Homeschool Sports Access Bill

**Please consider sharing this important message with your local homeschooling groups**

If the issue of homeschool sports access matters to you, it’s important that you invest 15 minutes TODAY to let your representative in the Virginia House of Delegates know about it. HB 947, this year’s homeschool sports access bill, will be considered by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, February 1, and a number of pivotal delegates may not vote in favor of the bill.

We’ve prepared a list of important points for your reference below, but of course, you should express your own opinion, because that will have a much bigger impact with your delegate. You can also read our more detailed position statement on our website: Reasons to Support HB 947.

We need to reach the following delegates to help them understand that homeschool sports access matters to their constituents. The Virginia Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has put out an urgent call to their membership across the state to reach out to their legislators to oppose HB 947. The PTA says that programs at Virginia’s community schools should be “reserved” for public school students, and that homeschoolers cannot meet academic and other eligibility requirements. Those in favor of HB 947 need to let their legislators know that there is another viewpoint that they should consider, and remind them that they represent ALL of the students in their districts, not just public school students.

The members of the House Education Committee are listed below. Please find out who your delegate is and, if he or she is on the committee, make contact TODAY. Take a few minutes to either call or email to express your view. For contact information, just click on a delegate’s name below.

House Education Committee Members

Reasons to Support HB 947

High school sports and activities access might be important to your own kids, or it might not — but it can be a deciding factor in whether other homeschooling families in Virginia are able to continue to homeschool their teens.

Every year, there are homeschooling families across Virginia who find themselves faced with making a choice between homeschooling for high school and broader opportunities for their children. In most communities, recreational athletic programs exist only for younger children, and all teen athletics are run through the public high schools. Homeschooled students will continue to be specifically excluded from these programs unless HB 947 is enacted.

Here are some reasons to support HB 947:

  • HB 947 would allow homeschooled students to try out for sports programs only at their local high school, just like their neighbors.
  • In Virginia’s rural communities, high school sports are often the only game in town. There aren’t enough homeschoolers to create their own leagues, and the time and expense of travel leagues is out of the reach of many families.
  • High school sports programs are community programs and homeschooled students are an active part of their local communities.
  • Homeschooled students already participate in sports at the middle school level, and in high school “club” sports, at the discretion of their local schools; the only programs from which they are excluded, by a specific written policy, are those governed by the Virginia High School League.
  • The Virginia High School League has said that homeschoolers would meet fewer than half of VHSL’s eligibility requirements; THIS IS NOT ACCURATE. Homeschoolers would meet all of the eligibility requirements EXCEPT those that specifically require attendance at public school.
  • Under HB 947, homeschooled students would be required to demonstrate academic progress for TWO YEARS in order to try out; public school students are only required to pass 5 classes in the previous SEMESTER.
  • HB 947 places the decision-making about whether or not to allow homeschoolers to try out at the local level, in the hands of school boards, principals and coaches, rather than in the hands of a private, state-wide organization with a monopoly on Virginia’s high school sports programs.
  • Homeschool sports access is already working, by law or policy, in 28 states. It can work in Virginia, too.

VaHomeschoolers has written a longer explanation of all of these points for those who are interested in learning more. You can read it on our website: Reasons to Support HB 947.

Text of HB 947

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding in Chapter 1 of Title 22.1 a section numbered 22.1-7.1 as follows:

§ 22.1-7.1. Organizations governing public school interscholastic programs; participation by nonpublic school students.

A. No public school shall become a member of any organization or entity whose purpose is to regulate or govern interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) is receiving home instruction pursuant to § 22.1-254.1, (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two years in compliance with subsection C of § 22.1-254.1, (iii) is entitled to free tuition in a public school pursuant to § 22.1-3, (iv) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current school year, (v) is an amateur who receives no compensation, but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity, (vi) complies with all disciplinary rules applicable to all public high school athletes, and (vii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, parental consents, and physical examinations applicable to all high school athletes. Eligibility shall be limited to participation in interscholastic programs at the school serving the attendance zone in which such student lives.

B. Reasonable fees may be charged to such students to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs.

Note: A “sunset provision” was added as an amendment to the bill by the House Education subcommittee on January 26; with this amendment, the provisions of the bill would expire in June 2017 unless steps are taken to re-enact it.

Contact VaHomeschoolers

If you have any questions or concerns about this legislation, or any other legislative issue, please contact Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs.

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The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. A financial statement is available from the Virginia Division of Consumer Affairs upon request.

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