By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, May 7, the Alabama House of Representatives passed HB236, the “Tim Tebow bill.”
HB236 would allow children who are being home schooled to participate in extracurricular activities like cheerleading and athletics at the taxpayer-funded local schools that they would be zoned to if they had chosen to attend the government’s schools.
Almost 30 states have some form of this legislation. Florida has had this since the late 1990s.
HB236 was sponsored by state Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison) said that this version of the bill deals with the issues that prevented the bill, which is named after the popular University of Florida quarterback, from passing in previous legislative sessions.
State Representative Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) said, “When I went to school we didm’t have this problem of homeschooling. The two biggest problems we face in the schools has been taking prayer and the paddle out of school. I am going to vote no.”
Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) said that high school is not like when we were in high school. Teenagers this day I fear them.” We could get in a bullying situation. If homeschool children come to public school and take a spot on the team or the cheerleading squad, we could even have parents out there fighting over it. Homeschool children are kind of sheltered. I hope and pray we don’t see a lot of abuse and bullying.
Rep. Ball (who is small in stature) replied, “I have a lot of experience with bullies. I was the smallest kid in both the fourth and fifth grade. It was very painful. Sometimes you have to make a stand. All the little kids have to stand together and sometimes you have to tote a whipping.”
Ball said that his bill creates an opportunity for more interaction. Home schooling is not for everybody. They are part of the community. I favor inclusion instead of exclusion. Most homeschool parents make sacrifices. Some of them have a chip on their shoulder and pulled their kids out of school. I have not found that to be representative.
Rep. Warren said that she is concerned about what could happen to the homeschool children if they interact with public school children. “Kids are committing suicide because of bullying.” “I hope no student will have to suffer.”
Ball acknowledged that teen suicide is a big problem and said that he is working on a bill to help address the suicide problem.
Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said I played football including one year professionally and when I played we knew how to get somebody off the team we didn’t want on the team.
Rogers said that those kids will feel deprived because somebody comes in and takes their spot. “He ain’t going to be playing long because they are going to be waiting on him.” Rogers said that home schooling kids don’t have the interpersonal skills to cope.
Ball said I hope to see more flexibility from schools. This is an area creating more flexibility for parents; but they have to live in the district. “We are trying to build bridges.”
Darrio Melton (D-Selma) I keep hearing this debate about our kids participating in athletics. How does this impact homecoming and pep rallies?
Rep. Ball replied that there are various boards who have their own policies about this. I would hope that they would encourage inclusiveness and participation. Ball said that the academic standards are actually higher for participation for the homeschooled students is higher than for students in the public schools. Even though he was homeschooled Tim Tebow has had a positive impact on his team mates and fellow students as well as the greater society.
Melton asked why is it so important that they participate in public school athletics? Why can’t they stay in the municipal athletics fields?
Ball replied why is it so bad that they participate? Some parents are more involved in their children lives. Some home school over school prayer and for religious reasons.
Rep. Melton said the homeschoolers can create their own league.
Rep. Hall (D-Huntsville) said, “Those individuals who are home schooling their children can start their own league. I did not see any type of oversight over discipline in the home schools.”
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) said that to participate students must score in the top 25 percentile on a standardized test. About 13,000 students in Alabama have left the public school system across the State and are home schooling. This is a way to bring some of them back.
Rep. Hall said this is a way to keep whittling away at the public schools.
Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) said, “I have received thousands of emails in the past few days. Many are very well written and show a deep understanding of the bill.”
Rep. Christopher England (D-Tuscaloosa) said, “I do have some problems with the legislation. More indicative of the tone I have noticed over the past few years. We have had the accountability act, we have charter schools, now we have this allowing people to use school facilities without going to the school. We are providing scholarships for people to leave the public schools. Now athletics will no longer be a draw for the public school system. Because of where I am from and my constituency these are institutions that they depend on and they should be protected. It bothers me that we are taking some of the benefits of public schools away.”
Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa): “I want to tell you that your bill is a good bill and I ask this body to support this bill because it is for the child.”
Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said, “We make a choice to attend public schools or not to attend. Jackson said that the bill didn’t pan out like they hoped it would in Florida.”
Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “The main problem I have is why would you subject these children to what they would experience in High Schools?”
Rep. John Rogers said, “I am not a proponent of home schools. I do think everybody should get a good education. Drugs are very prevalent in high schools. They sell them in the schools. Home school kids were raised in a cocoon they are not exposed to all that. They don’t know how to react.”
Rep. Mary Moore said, “those children are going to be considered outsiders. I would not subject children to what they will be subjected to and I just shudder at what would happen to those children. There is going to be a level of bullying. I am hell-bent to bring some common sense to this body.”
The Tim Tebow bill passed 52 to 43.
Rep Matt Fridy (R) I was honored and excited to cast my vote today in favor of the Tim Tebow Act!