Legislative Update – February 14, 2013

Homeschool Sports Access: HB 1442 Senate Committee Hearing Results

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is disappointed to report that HB 1442, this year’s homeschool sports access bill, failed to report from the Senate Education and Health Committee this morning. The committee members voted exactly as they did last year, with 8 opposed and 7 in favor. Senator Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake) was once again the only Republican member of the committee to oppose the bill. No Democrats voted in favor. (See more voting details below.)

General Assembly Homeschool Sports Access Crowd 2013

Some supporters of the bill remained after the vote to meet with Delegate Bell, Senator Martin, and VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Director Amy Wilson and President Parrish Mort.
(Photo courtesy of Jeanne Faulconer)

After waiting through three hours of committee business and testimony on other bills, homeschooled students and their parents testified about the importance of this issue to their families. One student, Eli Marcellus, brought a letter from the Goochland County school board stating that the board strongly favors the idea of homeschool sports access for their community. Colin O’Brien, a public high school student, told the senators that he and his teammates would like their homeschooled friends to be able to try out for their baseball team.

Thanks from VaHomeschoolers

 VaHomeschoolers would like to thank Eli and Colin and their families, as well as the other students who offered excellent testimony, and their families who took the time to bring them to Richmond: Campbell Niehaus, Josh Henderson, Courtney Calvert, Rainier Lee, Madeline Newman, and our two legislative student-interns, Sydney Bowman and Micah Fitz.

We’d also like to thank, once again, Delegate Robert Bell (R-Albemarle), the bill’s patron, for his perennial support. Our appreciation also extends to Senator Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield), the chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, who was an outspoken supporter of home education with his comments and questions during testimony.  Senator Thomas Garrett (R- Lynchburg) also strongly supported the bill with questions and comments from a fresh perspective.  We encourage homeschooling families to express their appreciation to these legislators, as well as the other senators voting in favor today and all of those in the House of Delegates  who supported the creation of homeschool sports access in Virginia.

Progress Was Made

All of the news is not bad with regard to homeschool sports access here in Virginia. Thanks to a survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University, we now know that 67 percent of Virginians favor the idea of homeschool sports access. We had hoped more of the senators would be among that group, but it’s clear that the message is getting out that it’s reasonable to allow homeschooled students to participate in programs at their local public schools. This is progress to build on.

Another significant accomplishment this year was the publication of a favorable editorial on homeschool sports access in The Washington Post. Last year, The Post published a number of negative opinions on the subject, but this week, the editorial board noted ,“State athletic officials ought to look for a solution that preserves a level playing field but doesn’t deny local school districts or their students the important right to choose.”

Moving Forward

Delegate Bell, Senator Martin, and VaHomeschoolers spoke with supporters after the hearing today about what homeschoolers can do to contribute to this bill’s success next year. VaHomeschoolers feels that what we need is grassroots action on the part of many homeschoolers across Virginia. We need to go beyond emails and phone calls. Our legislators need to meet real homeschooling families from their districts and learn more about the wide variety of reasons why we choose home education, the fact that most of us support and value high-quality public education (even if it is not the right choice for our child or children right now), and the fact that home education is no longer a fringe movement – it is an inclusive and increasingly mainstream educational choice, made by families of all stripes.

How VaHomeschoolers Can Help

To that end, VaHomeschoolers will be working to encourage and support homeschoolers to meet with their legislators in their district offices this year, before the 2014 General Assembly. We have a wealth of research and educational materials available, and we will be providing guidance on how best to approach your delegate and senators. We will soon be helping to launch a grassroots action group to connect families who are interested in supporting the creation of homeschool sports access.

New Free Conference Session!

We have decided to offer a free afternoon session on Friday, March 22 from 4:30-5:30 at our 2013 Conference & Resource Fair to present information on effective advocacy on this issue.  We’ll provide background on the issue, effective rebuttals to opposition arguments, information on the educational materials we have to offer, and do’s and don’t’s about speaking with legislators, members of the media, school board members and others.  Any interested homeschooling parent or student is welcome, as are grandparents, friends, public school students, coaches, and any other member of the public who supports homeschool sports access.  To join us, you need only to register as an attendee or as a shop-for-free patron.  We hope to see many families there!

Here is how the votes were cast both today and in 2012:

Voted NO

Sen. George Barker (D-Alexandria)
Sen. Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake)
Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston)
Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton)
Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth)
Sen. John Miller (D-Newport News)
Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk)
Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Springfield)

Voted YES

(Chairman) Sen. Stephen Martin (R-Chesterfield)
Sen. Richard Black (R-Leesburg)
Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson)
Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Lynchburg)
Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach)
Sen. Stephen Newman (R-Forest)
Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke)

Contact VaHomeschoolers

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

 

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