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Homeschool sports access banks on Senate shakeup

By COLIN KENNEDY

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND — After nearly a decade of debate, some Virginia legislators are hopeful homeschooled students will soon be allowed to participate in public school sports.

House Bill 63, which was proposed by Delegate Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville, has progressed through the House of Delegates’ Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee and likely will be heard by the House Education Committee this week.

This year’s version of the bill is identical to those that have failed by one vote at the Senate Education and Health Committee in recent years, Bell says, but there is reason for optimism this time around.

“For several years it has passed the House and been defeated in the Senate,” Bell said. “The Senate has always been a trouble, (but) we’ve got some changes in membership … so we’re hopeful we can get it out of the senate this year.”

These membership changes could make all the difference in 2014. Two members of the committee – both of whom repeatedly voted against the legislation – have vacated their positions.

Former Sen. Harry Blevins retired and former Sen. Ralph Northam recently was elected to serve as the commonwealth’s 40th lieutenant governor. So, assuming all goes well in the House, and the remaining 13 committee members vote along the same lines as in past years, the fate of HB63 may hinge on party politics inside the Senate chamber.

The scale may have tipped in favor of the Democrats, who have traditionally opposed homeschool sports access, when Jennifer Wexton won Virginia’s 33rd Senate District race in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Mark Herring.

Though Democratic control of the Senate potentially could help determine which legislators are appointed to the Senate Education and Health Committee, Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, says the issue extends beyond partisanship.

“Decisions have consequences and when a parent decides to homeschool their child, they are taking that child out of the public school and … away from all of the extracurricular benefits that a public school offers,” Miller said. “I don’t think that a homeschooled student should have the ability to pick and choose which activities of public school they’re going to participate in.”

Right now, homeschoolers don’t have extracurricular choices because the Virginia High School League, which oversees all high school sports in the state, prevents homeschoolers from doing so.

Miller is a member of the Senate’s Education and Health Committee, who previously served as the Senate representative of the VHSL. He says he thinks HB63 would be unfair to students enrolled in the public school system because homeschoolers would need to meet fewer eligibility requirements to participate.

HB63, which is nicknamed the “Tebow” bill after the former NFL quarterback who was allowed to play in public school athletics as a Florida homeschooler, would prohibit the commonwealth’s public schools from being members of the VHSL unless the school alters its eligibility regulations to include homeschooled students.

Such a resolution would make Virginia the 24th state nationwide to give homeschoolers at least limited sports access, according to The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers.

James Angel, the media spokesperson on legislative affairs for VA Homeschoolers, says he thinks the issue comes down to equal opportunity.

“We see this as a basic measure of fairness,” Angel said. “There’s really no good reason why homeschooled kids should not be allowed to partake in the activities that their parents, who are taxpayers, paid for.”

Ultimately, the taxpayers likely remain at the mercy of a 15-person senate committee that has defeated the same legislation several years running. More than 29,000 students statewide were homeschooled as of December 2013, according to the Virginia Department of Education, and Angel says he thinks this proposed legislation might finally have enough support.

“We’re optimistic that this is going to be the year,” Angel said. “It’s an issue that comes up year after year, and sooner than later, it’s going to get through.

The full house committee is expected to hear HB63 this week, and the bill could reach the Senate by month’s end.

17 Responses to Homeschool sports access banks on Senate shakeup

  1. concerned

    January 28, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Robert Bell needs to get a clue & I encourage everyone to go to the Virginia General Assembly website and find their rep and email them – its so easy with the technology we have. Just click on their name & it will take you there. There are also easy ways to find out information on other bills and how your rep has voted on other issues.

    leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm (you can cut and past this link into your browser)

    These legislators need help making decisions, especially concerning education, because they have no practical experience. They make decisions because one constituent sees them in a parking lot & they believe everyone feels that way. Why would they even consider this unless its some of these elite legislators that also homeschool their kids? HMMMM. It is a very minor percentage of the population that chooses to homeschool (some valid, some not valid) so why would a politician consider voting for something that would affect a very minority of citizens (who chose to not participate in every other facet of public education)?

    PART I: The “Tebow” bill is a joke. They shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose which activities they want to participate in. The other part of the “Tebow” myth that isn’t told is that Tebow took a 2nd residence in Florida (another apartment) where he was “homeschooled” so he could participate in football at the school of his choosing rather than the local public high school that he should have attended.

    PART II: The VHSL has enough problems trying to regulate recruitment as it is. This would open up the flood gates to more shady practices that go on in other districts (especially some larger cities and districts with multiple high schools). Public school students who participate in VHSL activities have to attend certain number of classes each day, meet specific grade requirements etc. Some public schools also have other more stringient requirements for participation on their teams. Bottom line is that a homeschooled child would not have to meet any of these – kid can’t hack it, remove from school, and viola still get to play in the games. I know a few coaches who would like some of their kids that get kicked off for grades to just get homeschooled and still play. Wouldn’t that be great.

    Part III: Homeschooling regulations in the state of Virginia are ridiculous. If a citizen claims its for religious reasons then nothing else is asked. The qualifications for a homeschool diploma or to teach a homeschooled student is minimal (a college degree and in some cases a high school degree isn’t required).

    SORRY for the rant but this one really irks me.

  2. concerned

    January 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    You can also go to the following website to email your state legislator: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform

    or just go to google and type in who’s my state legislator.

    Please do – for ALL issues that you might be concerned about as a citizen including this one.

  3. Taxpayer

    January 28, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    I’ll be glad to keep my home schooled kid off your public school teams, just as soon as I get to keep my tax dollars which support public schools.

  4. Concerned

    January 28, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Tax argument is bogus. Always the same from the homeschool crowd. I guess we should not accept tax dollars from working people with no kids or senior citizens since they don’t use the public education system. I pay taxes too, shouldn’t I get social services, food stamps, Medicare etc. or should I get my tax dollars back. I don’t drive in your community but my tax dollars went to your road and speed bump…. Where’s my refund. Tax dollars are used all the time for public works etc. that all citizens don’t utilize. Try again taxpayer.

    How about all the private funds and non tax revenue used to support athletic teams needs such as uniforms, travel, referees.

    Try explaining to public student Bob, why he didn’t make the team or get in the game or sat a game because of grades, being late to school, had detention etc. but homeschool student Jeeves gets to play with no accountability.

    I will also be happy to let your homeschoolers play when there are some other qualifications and accountability measures put in place for homeschoolers to prevent high school recruiting or even encouragement to choose homeschool to remain eligible for athletics.

    Mr. Taxpayer widen the lens on your narrow glasses and realize this isn’t about you, it’s about protecting the whole (the over 1 million public school students vs. the approximately 30,000 homeschoolers – who don’t and won’t meet the same standards as their public school peers, which comes to about 2% of the student population).

    • Va Girl

      January 29, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Wow, so you are prejudice against home schooled kids? Nice. My sister home schools her 3 down in Tampa. She taught math/science in middle school for 7 yrs. before having her first child and is well, qualified to do so. Her 13 yr. old is on a robotics team that has won a state championship. Boy is brilliant. They also participate in the county school sports (soccer) and so do many of the home schooled kids. Not sure why you want to penalize them. It shows a very, nasty mindset.

      As for the home school kids not meeting the same standards, you are right on that note. My sister’s kids and many of the others are WAY AHEAD of the public school kids in their educations. They don’t meet the same standards because they are so far above them. Her kids already speak Spanish quite well, the 13 yr. old is already dabbling in calculus, they take fencing (2 yrs. now), horse riding lessons, go on more educational field trips with the other home schoolers…beat out the public school kids in math competitions…so your point is mute.

      Not sure what you think excluding these children is going to protect. The home schooled kids have to pass the same standardized tests to enter college, and most do very, well.

  5. concerned

    January 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    VA Girl,

    Slow down, go back a reread the post.

    I’m not prejudiced against homeschoolers. (Since when in this country do we pass laws in favor of the 2% if it is not a civil rights issue? Which this is not b/c they aren’t a protected class.) If they want to include them in VHSL activities than they should have to meet the same attendance, academic, and behavioral requirements as their team members. Parents have made their choice not to be a part of the public education system and I fully support their right to do so. In this day in age there are plenty of extra curricular, highly competetive athletic teams that are not VHSL regulated that homeschoolers can participate in. Bottom line is that there are rules in games and life and you must play by them in order to participate. This is a bad bill that will have many unintended but forseeable consequences if passed in Virginia b/c of lack of homeschool regulation in our state. If you go back and reread the second to last paragraph, I already made that statement.

    There are indeed some great homeschooled kids throughout the country. I know some at both extremes (good and bad). When I was living in another community (I won’t name it) in Virginia, I thought about sending my kid to private school or possibly homeschooling him rather than go to a low performing elementary school but I decided to move my family instead. Homeschooling is a viable option to many but again it is abused in this state b many because of the ridiculously limited amount of regulations and oversight.

    I am a Tim Tebow fan but he abused the loop holes in the system in Florida to play for a school of his choosing not the local public high school he should have gone to.

    One more tax argument: Schools are also appropriated funding by state and federal government based on school populations of which homeschoolers are not counted.

    • Va Girl

      January 30, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Not sure why my username went to anonymous. I’m using a different computer. Maybe that’s why…

  6. Anonymous

    January 30, 2014 at 8:09 am

    I read them more than once. Your condescending tone is unpleasant at best and screams how against these kids/parents you are. For interest’s sake I threw your comments into Word. You typed 1,033 words AGAINST home school children participating in public school sports which shows quite a bit of anger.

    Your “private funds” issue is bogus. Are you so foolish to believe home schoolers wouldn’t have to participate in fund raising and their own expenses?

    Your most interesting post is: (Since when in this country do we pass laws in favor of the 2% if it is not a civil rights issue? Which this is not b/c they aren’t a protected class.)

    Since when? For a while now. Many federal regulations have zero to do with civil rights or a protected class. How about the insane bill before the Fed. requiring movie theaters to compensate for the blind and deaf? EVERY movie theater would have to comply. It will put many small theaters out of business. Since when are deaf/blind folks (though I feel for them) a protected class?

    Feds now demand public pools have ramps and wheelchair lifts. Although I also feel for these people, they are not going to the public pools that I’ve ever seen. So EVERY public pool will need to adjust (at our expense). This is not a “civil right” as it is to VOTE or use the same toilet as someone of a different race.

    Best one to me is the Braille at an ATM drive-thru. Yes… BRAILLE at a DRIVE-THRU. I doubt even 2% of our population is fully blind (thankfully) but of those 2% just how many do you think are DRIVING!??

    Yes, there are tons because I could go on and on.

    No matter how to try to back peddle you are against these home schooled kids AND their parents who love them enough to provide a better, safer, and more stable education without all the distraction of public school. They likely don’t miss any snow days either…..

  7. concerned

    January 30, 2014 at 11:33 am

    VA Girl PLEASE READ CAREFULLY, try to read after you count to 10 and take a breath of fresh air, use your ability to have a rationale argument and then reply. Beware, I have included some sarcasm and condescending remarks below but they are for my own benefit and directed only at your arguments not homeschoolers or their parents. Enjoy and try not to drive or type of with rage.

    First, people with disabilities make up more than 2% of people and second, they are considered a protected class (which does makes your counter arguments a civil rights issue). Third, all I asked you to do is go back a reread what I posted. It isn’t condescending to homeschoolers or their parents but may be to you if that’s how you want to take it. (more condescending tone to follow)

    Question: Do you think they make different ATM machines for ones in the mall and ones at drive thrus? You could go on all day but you’d be wrong because AGAIN they are a legally protected class. (condescending remark above, I’ll point them out to you so you don’t miss them – this is also a condescending remark).

    As I said, Rachel Maddow or Anne Coulter(both are nuts & like them reason escapes you – condescending again), I am not against homeschool kids or their parents choosing not to go to public school but I am strongly against them playing on VHSL sponsored teams b/c they don’t play by the same rules as their public school peers. If the state wants to implement laws requiring homeschoolers who wish to partiipate take accurate hours of attendance, have regular marking periods, abide by the same residency requirements etc. I would be all in favor of them participating however, that is not what this bill is.

    As far as them missing snow days, I hope not but there are many that do very little the rest of the time (in the state of Virginia) so they might as well work on the snow days. Have you seen the regs for homeschooling in Virginia? I have. I have also seen where many parents homeschool and do it legitimately and with fidelity but I have also seen many parents of students who sign a document saying its for religious reasons b/c their kid is being held to a standard, doesn’t attend and they are in danger of being prosected for truancy. I have also seen some counselors and administrations “guide” student’s parents to make that decision because their kid will likely not pass some of the End of Course testing and wouldn’t count against them (which is despicable to me).

    • Va Girl

      January 31, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Nah, don’t think I’ll read more than the 1st line of your response post. You’re just too nasty to fool with any longer. Have a nice weekend.

      • concerned

        January 31, 2014 at 10:53 am

        What no counterargument, no debate, no time to paste my document into Word and do a word count – what a shame I enjoy the banter. I guess I’ll catch you on another post.

        I guess the sarcasm is more than you could bare & for that I apologize.

        • Ralph

          January 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

          You must be a personal friend to the sports editor or at least be as opinionated as him. More than likely, you never had an athletic bone in your body, nor your kids and you are just a couch potato coach that could do better than everyone else.

          • concerned

            January 31, 2014 at 4:36 pm

            Poor Ralph, you make no sense.

            Why does me not wanting homeschoolers (who do not want any part of public education) to participate in VHSL activities have anything to do with my athleticism or my coaching abilities?

            By the way, I do know Cougar Dave, I agree with him on some issues and some I do not. This one just happens to be one I agree with him on. I would call him more of an acquaintance than a friend and have known him for a long time now. No matter his opinion on any issue I do believe his heart to be genuine and he cares about students, athletes, and our community.

          • Va Girl

            January 31, 2014 at 7:23 pm

            Ralph, concerned is only “concerned” with their narrow point of view. Home school parents simply want to provide a more stable and safer (and often much, better) education than public schools offer. EXTRA-CURRICULAR activities are outside of that scope, but “CONCERNED” is not concerned with that. They HATE with all their heart anyone who dares buck the system. You and I are in agreement. Concerned? Well….the Obama generation. Conform or be thrown to the side.

        • Va Girl

          January 31, 2014 at 7:30 pm

          NO, your sarcasm is simply very, boring and easy to forecast. I must admit it’s impressive how extremely impressed you are with yourself. If bantering with you was anything more than a boring loss of my time, I’d do so. There are posters that I can banter with that matter because their heads are on the OUTside of their behinds..you are not one of them.

          I realize you will see this as a “win” because I’m done wasting time with you. There are more important things to do…like scrap dog doo of my shoes….

          • Concerned

            January 31, 2014 at 11:05 pm

            I thought you said that already. I have not made single remark about people who choose to home school their children. I have also thought about it for my kid in one particular instance but I decided to move instead. I applaud the many homeschool parents who choose to do it and implement it with fidelity. However, there hasn’t been one argument for homeschoolers participating other than “they don’t like homeschoolers” or “taxes”. Its not a right to do so, athletics are a privilege given to public school students who meet certain standards. IF THEY PASS LAWS TO BETTER REGULATE HOMESCHOOL IN THE STATE OF VA AND MAKE THEM MORE ACCOUNTABLE THEN I MIGHT CHANGE MY MIND. I’ve offered a compromise, so who is the one with the narrow point of view. Where is your viable compromise or argument? Oh I forgot, the one about the handicapped laws, sorry doesn’t fit and you got upset when you were wrong and your argument fell apart. You responded by saying I was condescending to homeschoolers…. You couldn’t have been further fom the truth. Anytime someone has an argument the other side always says “I’m done wasting my time” or “they are narrow minded.”

            Thanks for making my argument for me. “They hate when someone wants to BUCK the system.” No, I don’t. Homeschoolers did BUCK the system, kudos to them. They decided there is another way to get an education in this country but now they want back in when it suits them. Sorry but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t buck the system for one reason and then make the same argument to get what you want.

            Homeschoolers haven’t been denied any right or limited from participating in athletics, they just shouldn’t be allowed to participate in public school athletics until the regs have been changed.

            P.S. Thought you didn’t read it after the first sentence. What is a mute point? By the way it is a win, you haven’t made a tangible argument yet.

  8. james

    January 30, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    There’s many more Reponses that what’s posted, but the sports editor doesn’t like to publish them because it makes him look bad.