March 7, 2019, Atlanta -- Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, gives a sign to supporters to vote down an amendment to Senate Bill 163, his bill giving home schooled students access to public school sports. The bill passed without the amendment. Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin

Georgia Senate approves ‘Tim Tebow’ Act for home schooled students

Legislation approved by the Georgia Senate Thursday would let students who are schooled at home participate in extracurricular activities at their neighborhood school.

Following similar legislation in other states named after football player Tim Tebow, who was home schooled, Senate Bill 163 would compel school districts to let students who do not attend their local school play on athletic teams, perform in plays and engage in other activities until now restricted to enrolled students.

Proponents, such as Beth Garcia, say they pay taxes for public schools but get nothing for it. At a hearing last month, she described how her son excelled at baseball until high school, when other kids left the private leagues for their high school team.

Without that strong competition, he became less competitive, she said, foreclosing opportunities. “I’ve never known a college scout to come to a rec league,” she said.

Critics of the bill, such as Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, say parents who choose to educate their children outside the public school make a choice and should accept the consequences. They shouldn’t get to pick and choose how they participate, claiming they are owed access for their tax dollars.

“We decided long ago as a society that we would all pay for education,” she said on the Senate floor Thursday. People without children also pay school taxes “for the greater good of the whole,” she said, “because it benefits all of us.”

Parent offered an amendment that would have required home schooled students to take two courses at their school in order to participate in its extracurriculars, but the bill’s author, Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, gave it a thumbs down.

The Senate rejected the amendment and approved Thompson’s bill, moving it to the House.

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