Senate Education Committee approves ‘Tim Tebow bill’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The “Tim Tebow bill” is back before the state Legislature after the House of Delegates voted against the legislation last year.

The West Virginia Senate Education Committee passed the measure, Senate Bill 131, on a voice vote Tuesday. It would allow home-schoolers to play public school sports in addition to allowing kids at private or religious schools — non-members of the West Virginia Secondary Activities Commission — to play sports at public schools.

The measure nicknamed after the former collegiate football player, who was home-schooled but took part in public school activities before enrolling at the University of Florida.

Bernie Dolan, the executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, said the bill in its current form gives private non-member schools more rights than member schools that don’t offer some sports.

“They chose not to be members but you’re going to say whether you want that or not, you’re going to have to accept them as students,” Dolan said.

Bernie Dolan

The original bill, which was changed with a committee substitute Tuesday, would allow home-schoolers to play sports if they finish in the 25th percentile of the ACT exam and receive approval for their portfolio of progress. They would also have to get physical exams and immunizations required for public school students.

Virtual school students who are enrolled in four public school classes are allowed to play sports.

Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, who has overseen a Christian school in Beckley for decades, said students should be allowed to keep going to their private school while also being allowed to place sports in public schools.

“What we’re saying is they should be able to retain their right for school choice and have access, within parameters, to excel also,” Roberts said.

Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, attempted to amend the bill to take the private schools out the legislation, but the committee rejected the amendment.

Home-school mother Jamie Buckland called the bill a “great piece of legislation,” claiming families are leaving the state because of the lack of opportunities.

“Twenty-four other states have already said ‘yes,'” Buckland said.

The House of Delegates rejected the Tebow bill last year in a 52-46 vote.

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