“I was disappointed to not have the opportunities that others did,” the Leesburg teen said.
State legislators are considering whether to allow Virginia’s tens of thousands of home-schooled students to play sports at their local high schools.
The “Tebow bill” — named for Tim Tebow, the starting Denver Broncos quarterback who was home-schooled in Florida but was allowed to play football at his local high school — is making its way through the legislative session.
“They just want to try out,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville), whose younger siblings were home-schooled. “They just want a chance to participate with their friends, their neighbors, their community members.”
But opponents, including some school boards and PTAs, say home-schooled kids are not required to meet the same academic criteria as public school athletes — attend and pass five classes per day — and that they would take team slots from their public school counterparts.
“I don’t like legislating based on what the headline is,’’ said Del. Mark L. Keam (D-Fairfax).
The legislation has been introduced in Virginia since 2005 with little success, but a change in control of the General Assembly to Republicans after November’s elections has supporters hoping the proposal is headed for victory. Some Democrats have opposed the measure because they think it would hurt public schools, a core constituency.
A House of Delegates committee passed the bill last week despite strong and vocal opposition by public school officials and Del. Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach), the committee chairman, who is nicknamed “Coach” from his days as a high school football coach. The full House is expected to vote this week.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), the father of five children who attended public schools, has said he will sign the bill. “Home-school parents pay taxes like everybody else,” he said recently. “It’s just fair.”
More than 100 people crowded into a hearing room on Capitol Square last week to testify about the bill, many of them dressed-up children who delivered passionate speeches about wanting to play sports on their local school teams.
“Every Friday night I see the lights come on at my local high school and I wonder what it must be like to play in front of a hometown crowd,” said Patrick Foss, 17, of South Riding, ranked as the No. 16 college soccer recruit in the nation this year by ESPN.
Similar legislation has resonated across the nation as home-schooling continues to gain popularity and athletic standouts such as Tebow make headlines.