There have been many times I've been in our Springfield Capitol building where kids are roaming the expansive, marble-filled hallways and gathering for a rally under the rotunda. Adults and teens bused (not always the big, yellow one) to support various causes. Personally, the only times I've not seen them come on special interest bigwig-paid buses, were when homeschoolers came to call and for 4-H events. Some of those homeschoolers being 4-H leaders and visa versa.
The Richmond, Virginia Capitol was visited by the younger constituents this week, along with their parents. The homeschoolers wanted a fair shake at participating in public school extra-curricular activities. The prospect failed last year by one vote, but they were hopeful, especially after getting a Washington Post Editorial supporting the bill.
Despite many Virginia homeschoolers' efforts and a Commonwealth Education Poll determining a good majority of Virginians (67%) favor allowing homeschooled students to participate on public school teams, Virginia's Senate Education and Health Committee voted the bill down in an 8-7 vote.
19 year old Josh Henderson testified at the hearing. He will be leaving soon for spring camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers, after his 16th-round 2012 Major League draft pick. Homeschooled, Josh played for a Suffolk Baptist school as a younger teen. He made a plea for the homeschool community.
From the CBS DC site: Senate Panel Sacks ‘Tebow’ Homeschooling Bill Again:
“I just want you all to give these guys a shot,” he said, gesturing toward about a dozen young children queued in the committee room aisle awaiting a chance to speak.
The Virginian-Pilot reported a rather impertinent response from a Senate public servant to Josh's father:
'Tebow' home school sports bill sacked in Va. Senate By Julian Walker
When addressing the committee, Steve Henderson – Josh's father – explained that he and his wife educated the two youngest of their six boys at home because it was the best choice for them, not a knock against public schools. He made the case that parents and students contribute to the state and thus shouldn't be denied access to services.
"We pay our taxes, too," the elder Henderson said. "There's no difficulty in taking our money."
"You pay taxes that also go to purchase an F-22 fighter, that doesn't mean you get to fly it," fired back Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw.
The Virginian-Pilot also pointed out the other opponents:
Opposing the measure were representatives of education interest groups, including the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia High School League and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. They said creating special dispensation for homeschooled students is unfair to public students who must meet standards homeschoolers don't face.
Despite the VHSL claims of formation of a "small, elite group with separate and lesser standards", the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers pointed these facts out in their press release:
This year’s homeschool sports access bills specifically state that homeschool eligibility is subject to the policy of each local school board – there would be no mandate on public schools. Qualified students would only be eligible at the public school in their residential attendance zone (no “team shopping”). They would have to be bona fide homeschoolers, presenting documented proof that they had homeschooled in compliance with Virginia’s home instruction statute for at least two consecutive school years, including the two years immediately prior to seeking participation (“dropouts” would not qualify). Homeschoolers would also have to provide proof of two years of satisfactory academic progress, either through standardized testing scores or via professional academic evaluations approved by the local public school superintendent. Other eligibility rules required by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) would also apply.
In this case, it appears the special interest, big spending lobbying gro ups won. That day, the parking garages and meters in Richmond were filled up with homeschooling families' cars and vans. At least, the homeschooled children in the hearing room had a contemporary, hands-on civics lesson in their state's Capitol. That experience meets exceptional standards of usefulness.