HEAV Legislative Update **Sports Access Bill to Be Heard on Monday
The legislative session began last Wednesday (January 12), and already HEAV has sorted through several thousand bills and attended numerous committee hearings.
This week, a bill on homeschool access to public school sports came up; it passed out of subcommittee and will come before the full House Education Committee this Monday, January 24, at 9 a.m.
While we understand the interest some parents have in providing athletic opportunities for their children, it is not HEAV’s mission or purpose to pursue legislation that promotes a return to public schools. We have worked diligently for 28 years to protect and strengthen homeschooling freedoms and are concerned that additional requirements will be imposed on homeschool families. HEAV is neutral on this legislation.
Although neutral, our lobbyist, Bob Shanks, is still at the capital talking with legislators and attending all hearings. Below is his first-hand report on the hearing.
Thank you for keeping the legislative session in your prayers! Watch for more updates as we move forward, and check HEAV’s blog or Facebook page for current postings.
With warm regards,
Director of Homeschool Support & Legislative Affairs
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Homeschool Access to Public School Sports Debated in Committee
As anticipated again this year, sports access for homeschoolers is a topic of heated discussion in the General Assembly. Education Subcommittee #2 met yesterday to discuss homeschool access to interscholastic sports. Both Delegate Robert Bell (R-Charlottesville) and Delegate David Nutter (R-Christiansburg) introduced similar sports access bills. They were combined in committee to become HB 2395.
Delegate Bell summarized the history of several unsuccessful attempts by homeschooling parents and organizations to work with the Virginia High School League (VHSL), the governing body of interscholastic sports in Virginia. He stated there was no willingness from VHSL to even consider a compromise. Bell suggested he would do most anything VHSL wanted in order to reach a compromise.
Several people spoke in support of the bill. A homeschool dad, who was a former public school teacher and from a family of public school teachers, stated that the present policy was punitive. His homeschooled children attended the meeting with him. Another homeschool dad and CPA from Northern Virginia discussed the number of homeschool high school students in Virginia and the number of schools in Virginia. He argued that changing the current policy would have a negligible effect on public schools. A homeschool mom also briefly spoke on behalf of the bill.
Delegate Landes stated that the academic standards are not the same. There are no SOLs for homeschoolers.
Chris Freund of the Family Foundation suggested VHSL could require some other form of evaluation like a standardized achievement test.
Delegate Athey reiterated that the bill says the VHSL will set the rules. “Do you all understand? VHSL will require SOLs!! Homeschoolers don’t want SOLs.”
Ken Tilley of VHSL said he respects homeschoolers but remains strongly opposed. He said he wants a level playing field. “Public school kids have to do things to qualify to play that homeschoolers don’t have to do,” Tilley stated. His major concerns were 1) enrollment requirements and 2) the requirement to take five and pass five academic subjects. He said, “Bell’s bill gives parents too broad a latitude to declare their kids have qualified. Kids should have to pass SOLs or something similar.”
Joining the VHSL in opposition to sports access for homeschoolers were the School Superintendents Association, Virginia Education Association, and School Principles Association.
Delegate Morrissey commented regarding “the level playing field” by stating homeschoolers are not academic or discipline problems.
Tilley responded that there is no way to know if they are meeting the requirements the other students are meeting; therefore, they don’t face the consequences the other students face.
Delegate Athey asked what other states allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports. Scott Price of VAHomeschoolers and others indicated 1/3 to ½ of the other states allow access.
Delegate Landes expressed concern about public school kids who are benchwarmers who might get bumped off the team by a homeschooler. He said he knew public school parents who think that would be terribly unfair. Several answered, “That’s the way it is. We just want a chance to compete.”
Delegate Bell suggested there could be some version of dual enrollment. “All the arguments against my bill boil down to some version of ‘I don’t like it.’ I think the tail is wagging the dog.”
Delegate Athey concluded, “A generation ago, the type of parent who would be active in PTA etc., is now the one who is homeschooling. The quality of public school has suffered in part by their absence. I think some interaction between the homeschool community and the public school community would be good. I will vote for this bill.”
The committee moved to report the bill; it was seconded. The bill passed out of the sub-committee 6 Y – 2 N. It will be heard before the full House Education Committee Monday, January 24, at 9 a.m., in House Room C.
This report was written by the Home Educators Association of Virginia, a member-supported, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and supporting homeschooling freedoms in the Commonwealth. Feel free to reprint or pass along this report in its entirety.