RICHMOND — Homeschooled youth will continue to be barred from playing on public school sports teams.
A Virginia House of Delegates education subcommittee last Wednesday killed a measure sponsored by Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, that would have paved the way for students educated at home to compete with their public school counterparts.
House Bill 226 died by a 4-3 vote with Democrats voting against it. The committee’s three Republican members — Del. John Avoli of Staunton; Del. Mark Cole, of Fredericksburg; and Del. John McGuire, of Glen Allen — supported the bill, according to Virginia’s Legislative Information System.
The measure, also carried last year by Freitas, would have prohibited public schools from joining interscholastic programs that don’t allow homeschooled students.
The bill would have permitted reasonable fees be charged of homeschooled students to cover costs for insurance, uniforms and equipment.
Education lobbyists, including the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, spoke in opposition to the bill during public comment, saying students should enroll in public schools to participate in public school sports, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The measure is named for professional athlete Tim Tebow, who was allowed to play high school football in Florida while being home-schooled.
Freitas said last week that every parent pays the same taxes to fund public schools and therefore all children should be extended the same after-school opportunities.
Sharon Croushorn, legislative liaison with Culpeper Area Christian Home Educators, said many local homeschooling families have chosen to travel hours round-trip just to give their children the opportunity to participate in interscholastic sports.
“Families that choose to homeschool do not always have the same opportunities locally … as public school students,” she said.
Currently, Culpeper County homeschooled students are not eligible to play on public high school sports teams due to regulations established by Virginia High School League, Croushorn said. She added that many local homeschool families viewed House Bill 226 “as a move in the right direction” in allowing more choices for their students.