***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 24, 2013***
Contact: Amy Wilson, Director of Government Affairs
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE AGREES WITH OVER TWO-THIRDS OF VIRGINIANS: LET HOMESCHOOLERS PLAY!
HB 1442, “TEBOW” BILL APPROVED BY HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE TODAY
With homeschooling families looking on, a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Education Committee voted 7 to 1 this morning in favor of sending HB 1442 to the full committee for consideration. The bill, patroned by Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), would create eligibility requirements to allow qualified homeschooled students to participate in athletics and other programs at their local public high schools. (In 2012, the same subcommittee favored a similar bill by a vote of 6 to 2.)
A companion bill in the Senate, SB 812, was part of a heavy docket in the Senate Education and Health Committee and was “passed by for the day” at the request of its patron, Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Lynchburg).
Two-Thirds of Virginians Favor Homeschool Sports Access
The decision of the subcommittee members mirrors the results of a statewide survey released this week by Virginia Commonwealth University: the university’s Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute found in its 2012-2013 Commonwealth Education Poll that more than two-thirds of respondents (67%) favored allowing homeschoolers to participate on public high school teams. Support for homeschool sports access was strong among survey respondents who are school employees or retirees (62% of whom favor it) and parents of public school students (68% in favor). Notable majorities of respondents who identified as politically Independent (73%), Republican (69%) and Democrat (62%) all favored allowing homeschoolers to try out for local public school athletic programs.
VaHomeschoolers: Provisions of Bill Are Reasonable
Parrish Mort, president of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers), was not surprised. “People understand that kids should not have to give up academics that work for them in order to be allowed to try out for their community’s sports teams at their local high school,” said Mort.
Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs, agrees. “The bill has been designed to eliminate the kinds of problems that opponents try to point to,” said Wilson. “Students would have to try out only in a school division where they could otherwise attend, and they would have to be homeschooled for two full years before they could try out. That way someone who drops out could not just suddenly acquire homeschool status.”
Wilson says homeschoolers would also have to meet the state’s current academic requirements for homeschoolers. “People understand that homeschoolers are operating legally, not with some kind of work-arounds. They are supportive of how homeschooling works, and they don’t think kids should have to automatically give up state-supported and tax-supported high school sports when they are meeting the legal education requirements of the state,” said Wilson.
Homeschooled Students Speak Out
Micah Fitz of Prince William County, age 14, a homeschooled student legislative intern for VaHomeschoolers, explained that his competitive soccer opportunities are limited because “my club team has decided to take the spring season off to play for their high schools…which leaves me with little option to play and train during the spring season.”
12-year-old Sydney Bowman, a wrestler and lacrosse player from Leesburg who also serves as a VaHomeschoolers legislative intern, asked the subcommittee to approve the bill so that “I will have more choices.” With the bill’s approval, Sydney dreams, “It might even help me reach my dream of becoming a college women’s wrestling champion.”
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers), a statewide homeschooling association, supports both 2013 “Tebow” bills – HB 1442 and SB 812. VaHomeschoolers has worked on the issue of homeschool sports access since 1997, supporting legislation on the topic and participating in extended discussions aimed at addressing the concerns of the Virginia High School League and other organizations opposed to including homeschoolers in public school programs.
For more information or an interview:
Contact Amy Wilson, Director of Government Affairs, or call 866-513-6173.