Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, has long sponsored the "Tebow bill" that would let home-schooled students play sports in public schools.

A Republican-led committee on Monday killed the “Tebow bill,” a measure it has traditionally approved.

The Virginia House Education Committee, which has a 12-10 Republican majority, voted 11-11 to not report House Bill 496 from Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, to the full House of Delegates. Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Hampton, was the lone Republican to vote against the bill. The measure failed on the tie vote.

Helsel said after the meeting that he voted against it because he’d heard from his local school districts, which said they opposed the bill.

The vote Monday was inconsistent with action taken in recent years as Republicans have controlled the General Assembly. Each time it passed the full General Assembly, it was vetoed by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

Holly Coy, deputy secretary of education, said Monday that the Northam administration opposed the bill.

The bill would have allowed home-schooled students to compete in public school sports and other interscholastic programs. The issue was made famous by Tim Tebow, the former University of Florida star quarterback who went on to play in the NFL, who was allowed to play high school football in Florida while being home-schooled.

The “Tebow bill” passed the full House of Delegates last year with a 60-38 vote. The Senate voted 22-18 in favor of the bill before it was vetoed by McAuliffe for a third time.

Committee members heard from a handful of supporters of the bill Monday, but opponents included powerful education lobbies such as the Virginia Education Association and the Virginia School Boards Association.

Bell said he was disappointed with the vote.

“The irony is, outside of the sports and competitive arena, it’s going great,” he said. “A large number of high schools let them take classes right now, let them be in clubs right now. They’ve never been as integrated as they are right now. But they’re still not allowed to play football.”

He said supporters always lost some Republican votes on the measure.

“It was less significant when you had 66” Republican votes in the House, Bell said. “But when you’ve got 51, if you lose one Republican vote then things don’t get out of committee.”

“There were enough new members we were hoping it would be enough to get there. But none of the Democrats voted for it. We lost a Republican as we have in the past. But it mattered more when the votes were so close.”


(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306

Staff writer Graham Moomaw contributed to this report.

Politics/Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers state government and education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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