Sports Access Nixed Again
To the surprise of homeschoolers at the final meeting of the House Education Special Subcommittee, committee members failed to discuss ways to change the 2011 sports access bill. There was no second to the motion to discuss the options presented at an earlier meeting, so with this unexpected turn of events, the committee did not discuss the proposed changes to the original bill. Instead, after months of discussion, they recommended it be "passed by."
|Delegate Rob Bell, Yvonne Bunn, and |
Parrish Mort at the meeting.
To better understand the disappointment of the homeschool parents and student athletes attending the meeting, read the details below.
Director of Homeschool Support & Legislative Affairs
The House Education Special Subcommittee held its third and final meeting on sports access for homeschoolers on Tuesday, November 22, at the Virginia General Assembly. Delegate Rob Bell's (R-Charlottesville) bill (HB 2395), which was carried over from the 2011 legislative session, would have allowed homeschool students access to interscholastic activities, including public school sports. This summer, Committee Chairman Robert Tata of Virginia Beach formed a study committee to gather information from other states that successfully allow homeschool participation in interscholastic activities, including sports.
At earlier meetings, Legislative Information Services provided this information for the subcommittee's review, as well as a list of options gathered from other state requirements. Homeschooling parents and students testified for sports access, and the Virginia High School League (VHSL) and other public school organizations expressed opposition to changing VHSL policies regulating interscholastic activities.
FINAL MEETING RESULTS
At the final meeting on Tuesday, Delegate Bell summarized the key points that were made earlier by homeschool parents, students, and a coach who supported access. The Virginia High School League brought opposing testimony from a representative of athletic directors, the high school athletic association, the Virginia PTA, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.
Although the purpose of the final meeting was to discuss the list of proposed options, the subcommittee failed to discuss the options because of a procedural tactic: Delegate Thomas Greason (R-Loudoun) called for a discussion of the options from the other states, but received no second from the other subcommittee members. With this maneuver, a discussion could not be held. With no changes to the bill language, the committee had no favorable recommendation to report to the full House Education Committee. Instead, the committee voted to "pass by" the bill. This means the subcommittee will recommend HB 2395 not pass as written.
After hours of testimony from both sides, the committee failed to discuss the options from the other states that were presented in the study. They failed to complete the work they were commissioned to do.
What to do next?
Delegate Bell strongly believes homeschool students should have a right to "try out" for public school sports teams. We expect he will introduce a modified version of last year's bill during the 2012 session.
Delegate Bell suggests that parents who support sports access for homeschoolers must visit their own delegate and senator--especially the 15 newly elected delegates who probably have little understanding of homeschoolers and have never thought about sports access. If this issue is important to you, here's how Delegate Bell suggests you communicate your message:
- Personally visit your delegate and senator.
- If you can't visit his or her home office, handwrite a letter (This is a very effective means of communication and is always read.)
- Make a phone call.
- E-mail a letter. (This is not quite as effective as a visit, a handwritten letter, or a phone call.)
- Don't send a petition or form letter. (This is the least effective method of communication.)
After months of working on sports access, Delegate Bell and the homeschoolers in attendance were very disappointed at the outcome. At the end of the hearing, Delegate Bell stated, "We have no power over our colleagues, but you do." If you support sports access, now is the time to let your legislator know that this issue is important to you.
Home Educators Association of Virginia is neutral on sports access legislation. HEAV's purpose is to protect and strengthen home education. Although we understand the interest some parents have in providing athletic opportunities for their children, it is not HEAV's purpose to actively support a return to public schools.
During the past 10 years, HEAV has worked privately with the Virginia High School League in an attempt to come to an equitable agreement rather than risk bringing a discussion of home education before the Virginia legislature. During this time, we have carefully tracked several sports access bills introduced by legislators who were responding to requests from homeschooling parents in their districts.
We will continue to closely monitor access legislation and work with Delegate Bell, who is a longtime friend of homeschoolers. If there is any move toward increased regulations for homeschoolers in general, we will immediately ask that the bill be withdrawn.
HEAV will continue to work with our lawmakers and the Department of Education to maintain your freedom to homeschool in the least restrictive manner possible.