***FOR RELEASE AFTER 11AM, March 1, 2012***
Contact: Amy Wilson, Director of Government Affairs
Email: VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs
SENATE COMMITTEE VOTES DOWN HOMESCHOOL SPORTS ACCESS BILL
HB 947’s Journey at an End
Homeschooling families from across the Commonwealth packed a Senate hearing room this morning, and they were disappointed with what they heard. Despite compelling testimony from homeschooled students who pleaded for more athletic opportunities in their own communities, the Senate Education and Health Committee defeated HB 947, Del. Rob Bell’s (R-Charlottesville) bill that would have allowed homeschoolers to try out for sports at their local high schools. The so-called “Tebow Bill,” nicknamed in honor of the formerly-homeschooled NFL quarterback, has garnered significant media attention and inspired strong public opinion both in its favor and in opposition. The bill was defeated in a tight vote, with eight of the fifteen senators opposed. The vote was largely along party lines, with all of the Democratic senators, plus one Republican, voting in opposition and the remaining seven Republicans voting in support.
Del. Bell and The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers testified in favor of HB 947, but the most powerful testimony was from the ten homeschooled students who asked the committee to approve the bill. Of particular note was testimony from a public school student at Godwin High School in Henrico County. She previously homeschooled but chose to attend public school partly to play sports. Her junior varsity basketball team recruited players because they didn’t have enough students try out to field a team. The ability to accept homeschooled students would have been of benefit to her team and she is in support of sports access. Varina High School also had a large number of students attend the hearing and many chose to state their opposition to the bill.
Today’s vote is a heavy blow for Virginia’s homeschooled students, who for years have been asking the VHSL to allow them to try out for programs at their local high schools. Until this year, no bill on this topic has made it out of committee in the General Assembly. HB 947 received overwhelming support from the Virginia House of Delegates last month, and Governor McDonnell had indicated that he would sign it if it had reached his desk.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers), a nonprofit, volunteer-run statewide homeschooling association, expressed the disappointment of the homeschooling community. “Our children want to try out to play with the same friends and neighbors who have been their teammates all along, in Little League, middle school sports, and high school club sports,” said Amy Wilson, Director of Government Affairs for VaHomeschoolers. “Misinformation about the bill and about homeschooling in general contributed to the bill’s failure. Homeschooling families aren’t anti-public schools, and we are strongly committed to our communities.”
For more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview:
Contact Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs, or call 866-513-6173.
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