‘Tebow bill’ defeated by Senate committee

The “Tebow bill,” a measure that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in public high school sports, was defeated in the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee on Tuesday. For the second straight year, the controversial measure could not pass this roadblock, falling 8-7. Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, cast the deciding vote just as he did a year ago.

A dozen or so people spoke out against the bill. Among them were representatives of the Virginia High School League, administrators and coaches.

“Look at who spoke against it,” said Ken Tilley, executive director of the VHSL, who also was opposed to the measure. “All the education groups were against it.”

Opponents of the bill said it created an uneven playing field. Public school athletes must meet a series of eligibility requirements in order to participate. Because of the structure of home-school education, many of those requirements cannot be satisfied by home-schoolers.

Proponents argued that because they pay taxes, the nearly 6,000 high-school aged home-schoolers are entitled to the sports their schools offer. Others claimed that logic is flawed.

“I pay taxes too,” said Meg Gruber, the president of the Virginia Education Association. “I wasn’t given the gift of children. Should I get a rebate because I don’t have a kid in public school?”

The bill was nicknamed after quarterback Tim Tebow, who played high school football in Florida despite being home-schooled. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy and be drafted into the NFL.

Among the 20 or so who spoke in favor of the measure were children who were either excluded from their high school team or would soon be forced to when they reached high-school age.

Josh Henderson, an outfielder from Suffolk who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, lamented the fact that he could never play high school baseball because he was home-schooled. He played with his friends growing up. When his friends reached Nansemond River High School, Henderson was unable to play with them.

“We just had great camaraderie,” Henderson said of the team. “We were like family, basically.”

Henderson played for the travel team Canes and gained the attention of professional scouts there.