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Governor McAuliffe vetoes ‘Tebow bills’ for home-schoolers

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Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 17:00:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. — For the second year in a row, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed two bills that would allow home-schooled students to play sports at their local public school.

Also called the ‘Tebow bill,’ Senate Bill 612, was proposed by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Lynchburg, and House Bill 131, was introduced by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville.

The legislation would prohibit Virginia public schools from joining interscholastic organizations that don’t allow home-schoolers from participating in athletics.

The bills are named after Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who played high school football for a public high school while being home-schooled in Florida.

McAuliffe said allowing home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic competitions would disrupt the level playing field Virginia’s public schools have developed over the past century:

“For example, VHSL rules state that a student must pass five subjects or the equivalent in the previous semester, and be enrolled in five subjects or the equivalent offered for credit toward graduation, in order to participate in the league’s events. While the bill provides that home-schooled students must demonstrate evidence of progress in order to participate in interscholastic activities, the unique nature of their educational situation precludes conformity to the same standards.”

More than 300 public schools belong to the Virginia High School League (VHSL), an organization through which member schools have regulated interscholastic competition since 1913.

“Virginia’s public schools provide a complete package of scholastic offerings and access to extracurricular activities. Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements,” McAuliffe said. “Opening participation in those competitions to individuals who are not required to satisfy the same criteria upends Virginia’s extracurricular framework and codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition.”

In 2015, McAuliffe vetoed a similar ‘Tebow bill’, HB 1626, saying it would let home-schoolers bypass academic and attendance requirements that public school students must meet.