Virginia Code Section 22.1-254.1 permits parents to home-school their children. According to a 2013 survey of the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are 30 member State Associations that allow home-schooled students to play sports at their local public school. The General Assembly of Virginia recognized the logic of this stance this year by passing Bill No. H 1578 permitting home-schooled students to play sports at their local public school. The Bill as passed has several restrictions including the requirement to demonstrate evidence of academic progress for at least two consecutive academic years preceding the academic year during which the student seeks to participate, compliance with immunization requirements, and that the student has not reached the age of 19 by Aug. 1 of the current academic year. The Bill also permits a school system to charge reasonable fees to such a student for his/her participation. Despite these restrictions, Governor McAuliffe vetoed the Bill.
Home-schooled students can be at a disadvantage when applying for admission to elite universities if they do not show involvement in extracurricular activities. Despite the fact that they are not attending a public school, their parents are paying the same taxes as any other parent. In my opinion, taking all of these facts into account, government officials who stand in the way of allowing home-schooled students to participate in high school sports demonstrate a degree of unfairness that should offend voters in the upcoming state elections. Who are these offensive politicians?
I reviewed the legislative history of Bill H 1578. I analyzed who should be considered located in Northern Virginia as those with district office telephone numbers bearing one of the following area codes: 703, 571, and 540. In the State Senate, the votes were strictly along party lines with all of the Democrats opposing the Bill and all of the Republicans favoring it. Republicans voting in favor were Vogel, Black and Stuart. Democrats opposing the Bill were Marsden, Surovell, McPike, Barker, Petersen, Howell, Favola, Ebbin, and Wexton. The Bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 22-18.
The House of Delegates approved the Bill by a vote of 60-38. The vote was largely along party lines. In Northern Virginia, the votes in favor were 22 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Richard P. Bell). Those opposing were 18 Democrats (including Krizek, Bulova, Levine, Sickles and Watts) and two Republicans (Albo and Yost).
In the governor's explanation of his veto, he alleged that signing the Bill "would disrupt the level playing field Virginia's public schools have developed over the past century. While the Bill provides that home-schooled students must demonstrate evidence of progress in order to participate in interscholastic activities, the unique nature of their educational situation precludes conformity to the same standards." (His comment flies in the face of the requirement of the Bill that the student demonstrate the required proficiency for two full years previous to when the student wishes to participate.) The governor went on to state that "Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements." He then claimed that permitting home-schooled students to so participate "codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition." This is truly absurd given the Bill's strict requirements.
Politicians who oppose home-schooled students participating in high school sports are, in effect, transforming those students into second class citizens while their parents are paying the same taxes as other parents. If Virginia voters are smart enough to elect a Republican governor in November, Virginia can leave the dark ages and join the other 30 states that permit home-schooled students to participate in high school sports. There can be no legitimate excuse for delegates and senators or a governor potentially relegating these students to lower ranked college experiences, and thereby adversely impacting their lives for life, for purely partisan political reasons.
H. Jay Spiegel