West Virginia Capitol dome

CHARLESTON — A bill to allow home schooled students to participate in public schools’ extracurricular activities (called the “Tim Tebow” bill) has once again been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

But several attempts in the past have failed, even in 2017 when both the Senate and House passed a version of it only to see Gov. Jim Justice refuse to sign it.

Lead sponsor of the bill this year is Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer County, who has supported it before.

Ellington, who is this year chair of the House Education Committee, said there is “always a chance” it may get through.

House Bill 3127 was introduced into the House by Ellington on Jan. 8 and is now in the Education committee.

The bill is named after football player Tim Tebow, who was instrumental in getting a bill passed in Florida allowing home-schooled students to participate in public school activities, especially sports.

Tebow, who was home-schooled, went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as a quarterback for the University of Florida and played in the NFL for three years.

Since Florida approved the measure in 1996, 30 more states have passed a version of the bill.

if the bill passes here, home-schooled students would be allowed to play sports, be in the band and participate in other activities at local public schools.

However, students would have to meet several criteria, including compliance with grade point average, test results and disciplinary rules of the public school. They would be under all the same rules and requirements as public school students.

Reasonable fees may also be charged to the student to cover the costs of participation in interscholastic programs.

In 2018, the bill died in committee and it was rejected by the House last year.

Organizations like the State Secondary School Activities Commission and the West Virginia Education Association oppose the bill.

Reasons include the possibility of a diversion of funds from public schools, fairness of requirements of public school students that may not be required of home-schooled students, liability, and extracurricular activities are a privilege that comes with public schools and home-schoolers understand that going in.

Conversely, supporters of the bill argue that parents of home-schooled kids pay the same taxes to support public schools that all parents pay and they should reap benefits.

Also, according to the West Virginia Home Educators Association, home-schooling is regulated by the state and home-schooled students generally have “superior test results compared to their peers.”

Del. Ed Evans (D-McDowell County) said he is torn about the issue.

“I want to make sure it’s fair,” he said of all the requirements and expectations for all students so everyone can be on a level playing field.

Evans, a retired educator and coach, said public schools receive state and federal money to help pay for sports programs, and that money is based on the number of students actually enrolled in public schools.

But he also understands that all parents pay local taxes that go toward the school system so that is an issue as well. However, parents who home-school understand that when they make the decision not to send their kids to public school, he added.

“Just demonstrate to me how it’s fair,” he said.

 Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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