In a room packed with homeschoolers and their parents and, for the first time, public school students, HB 947 failed to be reported. Citing choice, fairness and the importance of preserving competition, opponents of HB 947 told Senate Education and Health Committee members that parents make choices regarding where their children will be educated and choices have consequences. Those speaking in support of the bill said homeschoolers just “want a chance to compete.” Opponents countered that public school students do not automatically get a chance to compete – they must qualify based on academic requirements and adherence to a strict discipline code.
The athletic coach from Varina High School in Henrico County, whose students stood behind him, told legislators that the focus in our public schools is on education, not athletics; and that schools educate students who may happen to be athletes not athletes who happen to be students.
This week, intense lobbying on the part of the proponents centered on the assertion that HB 947 was “local option.” “Not so,” said VASSP in testimony today. By the narrowest of margins on a vote of 7-8, all Democrats on the Committee voted against the bill as well as former VASSP member Republican Senator Harry Blevins. In response to a committee member who cited Tim Tebow as a good example of why Virginia needed to pass HB 947, Senators Blevins and Locke explained that Tebow, previously homeschooled, was just another example of “school shopping” as he and his mother moved to a school district without the rest of his family in order for him to attend the school with the best football team. Senator Blevins, a former principal, has been a staunch supporter of public education and VASSP since he came to the General Assembly in 1998.