Senate Education Committee passes “Tim Tebow” bill

Senate Bill 2329, a bill to allow home school students play public school sports, survived committee and passed to the Mississippi Senate. Named the “Tim Tebow Act” after the eponymous football player and home schooler who benefitted from a similar law in Florida, over 20 states already have laws that allow such access.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, the bill sponsor, argues that home school parents also pay taxes and should have equal access to extracurricular activities. Sen. Angela Hill believes, “We have a lot of people who are saving the state a lot of tax money by home schooling. . . I think it’s just a goodwill gesture that these kids could integrate with the school system and play sports if they want to.”

The bill originally included language that required documenting that home school academic standards were the same as public schools. The Senate Education Committee streamlined the wording require validation of academic achievement by “grade level testing administered by a school psychometrist.” Mississippi Home Educators Association (MHEA) opposes the bill since such language invites government intrusion and regulation of home schools. MHEA’s 5 Feb 2015 Facebook post expressed that “If this bill becomes law, it will be only a small step for psychometric testing to move from the realm of equal access to all home educators.”

SB 2329 also defines a home school as “a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two (2) families or households receive full-time supervised academic instruction from a parent, legal guardian, or member of either household.” This definition is more restrictive than Mississippi’s compulsory education law and limits parents’ education options. With a new and different definition on the books, future courts could interpret statutes unpredictably and negatively impact home schools.

Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, another opponent of the bill, believes that there should be no picking and choosing of public services stating, “You’re saying ‘I want to home school my child but I want the benefit of public school athletics. . . It’s kind of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.”

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