Time for the Tebow Bill

Published 11:28 am Friday, March 4, 2016

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has legislation on his desk that would allow homeschooled students to play sports with the public schools in whose zones they live. McAuliffe vetoed similar legislation last year, and it seems likely he’ll do so again this year. But, the thousands of homeschooled students across the commonwealth deserve for the governor to give this bill real consideration.

In fact, McAuliffe has two different versions of the same legislation. One originated in the House of Delegates, and the other came out of the Senate. The simple fact that both of the state’s legislative bodies are thinking along the same lines in this matter should give the governor a hint about what’s right for Virginia, not to mention what the people — through their elected legislative representatives — have to say about the matter.

The bills would prohibit Virginia public schools from joining interscholastic organizations that ban homeschoolers from participating. This would put pressure on the Virginia High School League to allow homeschooled students. The legislation does not require local school boards to let homeschooled students participate in sports or other activities, and it gives school boards the ability to charge homeschooled athletes fees for equipment, insurance and uniforms.

Virginia’s so-called “Tebow Bill,” which takes its name from star quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for a public high school in Florida while being homeschooled, has waited long enough to become law in Virginia. Homeschooled youth deserve to be able to participate in the activities their parents’ taxes help fund, and they would benefit from the social and physical opportunities organized sports offer at the high school level.

Even opponents of the measure have struggled to come up with good reasons to withhold support. They suggest that it would be too hard to verify that homeschooled students have kept the grades necessary to qualify them for interscholastic play.

But homeschoolers must provide all manner of information to their local school divisions to prove they are advancing at an age-appropriate rate, and one could reasonably expect that information to answer any sports eligibility questions.

It’s time for the commonwealth to stop snubbing those who opt out of the public school system. It’s time for the Tebow Bill to become law in Virginia.