Lawmaker Vows to Fight Veto of Virginia Homeschooler Athletics Bill

Published March 29, 2016

For the second year in a row, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has vetoed a law that would allow Virginia homeschool athletes to participate on public school athletic teams and in their facilities.

The bill is referred to as the “Tebow bill,” named for former National Football League quarterback and 2007 National Collegiate Athletic Association Heisman Award winner Tim Tebow. In 2003, Tebow, who was homeschooled by his parents, joined a Florida government school’s athletics team, in accordance with the state’s homeschooler athletics access laws.

Tebow bills prevent government schools from prohibiting homeschooled students from participating in government school-sponsored sports.

Senate Bill 612 would have allowed public schools to charge homeschoolers a fee in exchange for enrolling on a public school sports roster. The fee would help offset participation costs.

Keeping Kids Out

Chris Freund, vice president of government relations and communications at the Family Foundation, says rules passed by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), which oversees interscholastic high school athletic competitions, prevent homeschoolers from participating in sports with their peers.

“VHSL has a ‘take five, pass five’ rule, meaning that sports participants must take and pass five core subjects the previous semester to participate,” Freund said.

Plans to Try Again

Virginia state Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Buckingham), the bill’s sponsor, says the people of the state support his bill, even though McAuliffe does not.

“Right now, I’m going to carry the bill over, because we don’t have the votes to override, but I want to encourage those who want equal access to write letters to the governor and to the legislators who voted ‘no’ on the bill,” Garrett said. “We need six more votes than we have, but you can’t accomplish anything without trying.”

Exposing ‘Public School Monopoly’

Garrett says the governor’s opposition to the bill is puzzling.

“I don’t know why this governor doesn’t want this to pass,” Garrett said. “I think the people in the public school monopoly are afraid of being exposed. I think what’s going on is that the product produced by homeschoolers is superior to the public schools. They don’t like the public knowing that, and when these kids are given the ability to shine, that is exposed.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.