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“Tebow Bill” Passes Virginia House of Delegates

In a major win for homeschool and school choice advocates, the Virginia House of Delegates passed HB 511 on Thursday, February 10. Introduced by freshman Delegate Marie March (R-7, Pulaski), the so-called “Tebow Bill” will allow homeschooled students to try out for and play sports on the team of their local government school.

If the student makes the team, he or she must maintain the same academic and behavioral standards as everyone else, and pay any extra fees associated with the sport. Also, such participation is subject to local approval.

This bill has been submitted many times in previous years, and last week was the first time it has a House floor vote since 2017. Passage required some last-minute drama and wrangling. The House of Delegates currently has a narrow 52 R – 48 D split. Despite the GOP being the party of school-choice reforms, two Republicans voted no on the bill; however, one Democrat did not vote, so the final tally was 50-49.

Currently over 30 other states have enacted similar laws and none have voted to rescind them, thus giving supporters heart that this is a school choice measure whose time has come. Moreover, supporters point out that even though homeschool families do not choose to attend their local government school, they still pay the same taxes as everyone else and thus deserve some benefit from their contributions.

Among Roanoke Valley delegates, Chris Head (R-17, Roanoke/Botetourt) and Joe McNamara (R-8, Roanoke/Salem) voted yes. Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-11, Roanoke), despite consistently voting “pro-choice” on abortion issues, voted no on giving homeschool women a choice about extra curricular options for their children.

Having won approval in the House of Delegates, the state Senate will take up the issue next. The Senate has a narrow 21 D – 19 Republican split. Local Senator John Edwards (D), who represents the extremely gerrymandered 21st District, is a staunch foe of school choice initiatives. However, some of his Democrat colleagues have expressed some interest in such reforms. In the case of a tie-vote in the Senate, pro-school choice Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears would break the tie.

– Scott Dreyer

 

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