Senate joins House in backing ‘Tebow Bill’

The Virginia Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed legislation that would allow home-schooled students to participate in public school sports.

Senate Bill 612 — the so-called Tebow Bill, named after famous home-schooled University of Florida football player Tim Tebow — cleared the chamber on a 22-17 vote.

Sens. Kenneth C. Alexander, D-Norfolk, and Lynwood W. Lewis Jr., D-Accomack, joined 20 Republicans in support. Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, did not vote.

Similar legislation, perennially introduced by Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, has already cleared the House of Delegates, making it likely that one or both of the measures will win passage and advance to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The governor last year vetoed a version of the same bill.

Regarding the bill in the Senate, Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., R-Buckingham, noted that the latest version gives each locality the option of implementation and has a sunset provision that would cause it to expire in 2021 without further action by the legislature.

He said a number of other extracurricular school programs are already open to home-schooled students.

“Let the kids play ball,” he said.

But critics said the measure creates an uneven playing field for public school athletes by allowing participation for home-schoolers who do not have to attend their school.

Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen, D-Fairfax City, recalled the sense of pride that came from playing varsity sports for Fairfax High School. “If you want to wear that jersey Friday night, you’ve got to be willing to walk into that classroom Monday morning,” he said.

“When you decide to home-school your children … you have made a choice,” Petersen added. “And that’s an important choice, and you have to respect the consequences.”

Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, noted that parents of home-schooled students pay just as many taxes as parents of students who attend public school.

But Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, dismissed the argument.

“Just because your taxes are paying for the B-1 bomber, you don’t get to fly it,” he said.