Is there ‘a Tim Tebow out there’ to push a Georgia home-schoolers law?

Tim Tebow was a home-schooled student who played for a  state championship Florida high school team.

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Tim Tebow was a home-schooled student who played for a state championship Florida high school team.

Robin Hines, GHSA executive director

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At Issue: The issue of home-schooled student-athletes competing in GHSA-sanctioned sports has prompted serious discussion for several years. It could become more debatable in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

House Bill 163, known as the “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act,” was written by Bruce Thompson (R-White) and passed the Georgia Senate in March 2019. It has not yet come to a vote in the Georgia House. The bill sometimes is called the “Tim Tebow Act,” after the former University of Florida quarterback who was home-schooled and allowed to play for his local high school team. More than 20 states have passed similar bills, and the debate in Georgia is not expected to go away any time soon.

Proponents of the bill contend that they pay taxes just like everyone else and their children should be able to compete for local high school programs. Critics of the bill say that the parents have made a decision to home-school their children and should accept the consequences of those choices. They contend parents should not get to pick and choose how and when their children participate in sports by claiming owed access because of tax dollars.

Throw in the COVID-19 pandemic and the equation could change. This begs the question: Will more parents opt for home schooling this fall in an effort to keep their children safe?

And should home-schooled students be allowed to play for local high school teams?

The Skinny: Any discussion on the issue of home-schooled athletes playing for high schools in Georgia would be incomplete without the views of GHSA executive director Robin Hines. Hines, who has led the GHSA since 2017, is well-versed on the issue and where it stands with Georgia's General Assembly. He has canvassed the GHSA executive committee to see where it stands on the issue.

Hines: "We put a proposal to see where the association stood on (home-schooled participation), and it failed something like 44-21 or 22, which was surprising that there were that many (for) votes. I took a straw vote three years ago and it was 66-0. A lot of the reason for that is that a lot of school systems feel like that if the athletic departments are good enough for students, they should be matriculating there as well ... that the GHSA is scholastic sports and it's all about the culture of the school and not a cafeteria plan.

“But then the other side of that is we have got any number of types of schools. As well as the regular schools we have, you also have charter schools, specialty schools, magnet schools. You have dual-enrollment programs where there are already students who don’t physically go to a school and are eligible to play at that school. So honestly it is not that hard of a jump to see that happening. But as of right now, the association has not shown great interest, on their own, of (adopting) a bylaw allowing home-schooled students to participate. But I anticipate that a bill will pass and take care of that. And once that happens, then of course, the (GHSA) bylaws and the policies will be written to cover that.

“Tim Tebow was home-schooled and never went to a school. I wonder how the kid who had been at that school and was vested in that school and got his job taken from him felt about that. That’s one side of (the issue). But the other side is there is a Tim Tebow out there, someone who is going to be a Tim Tebow type of football player, and he’s probably already in a school and he’s probably already playing. Right? The way that I see the negative side is that the Georgia High School Association has a rule that you can’t practice during the school day. So what’s to prevent a really good golfer, who’s a home-schooler, from practicing while his competitors are sitting in an algebra class? You could see the same thing with tennis and those types of sports, which a lot of people don’t think about. At the end of the day, there would be some impact in some areas like (those sports), but it’s not going to overwhelm the association, and it will be just another thing just like a dual enrollment.

“If I had a crystal ball to look into, it’s going to happen at some point, right? And when it does happen, the sky is not going to fall. But at the same time, the association overwhelmingly has not, at this point, decided to allow home-schoolers to be in there. There are some caveats in the representative’s bill that says that they must take an online accredited course. And there is academic accountability with the school, and that sort of thing, that was not present in the Senate bill, which is good. I think in the Senate bill, it basically came down to the fact that if a home-schooled parent said that their kid was eligible, you just took their word for it and moved on. There is some accountability in the House (bill).”

AT ISSUE: Home-schoolers’ eligibility

Robin Hines, GHSA executive directorNiketa Battle, Mays football coachKurt Hitzeman, Carrollton golf coachScott Snyder, Westminster soccer coachJason Carrera, Meadowcreek football coach » MORE: Previous topics