Twenty-seven states are giving homeschool students the green light to participate in public school sports and extracurricular activities.

Thanks to Tim Tebow Bills, homeschoolers are being allowed to try out for band, football, music, theater, and a lot more at the public schools from which the students would otherwise be zoned.

Named for the Heisman Trophy winner who led a Florida high school football team to a state title while being homeschooled in 2005, these bills have drawn support and opposition. Supporters say the measure gives all students equal access to extracurricular activities. But some homeschoolers have voiced concerns that adopting the Tebow Bill would increase government regulation over homeschooling.

The Texas Home School Coalition doesn’t think so.

“Thousands of home schooling parents pay property taxes that fund public school activities and facilities, but their home schooled children aren’t even allowed to use them,” the THSC said on its website, estimating that Texas is home to 320,000 homeschool students and parents.

Tebow Bills would benefit homeschoolers in several ways, the THSC said, like:

- Ending discrimination against homeschool students who are prohibited from trying out for extracurricular activities;
- Broadening the selection of eligible talent by increasing participation and competition;
- Helping rural homeschoolers with opportunities to participate at nearby public schools;
- Saving the state money if those homeschoolers who are already enrolled in public school just to participate in extracurricular activities choose to remain homeschoolers.

Although the Texas State Senate passed the Tim Tebow Bill by a 21-7 vote in April, the bill never made it out of committee in the Texas House, ending its shot in the current legislative session.

Several other states debated Tebow Bills in their spring legislative sessions. Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee have all passed laws similar to the Tebow Bill that Texas proposed. Alabama rejected it, and Oklahoma is considering it.

Making Homeschooling History

Born in 1987, Tim Tebow is an NFL quarterback who made history as a homeschooled athlete.

After being allowed to play for his local high school in Pennsylvania, Tebow received a scholarship to play for the Florida Gators, whom he led to two national championships.

Tebow appeared in an ESPN feature on homeschooled athletes seeking equal access to high school athletics in other states. He argued in favor of extending the right to play for local teams to more states, pointing out that a homeschooler’s access to public and private school athletic functions vary by state.

On becoming the first homeschooler to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy, Tebow said, “That's really cool. A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic – it's like, go win a spelling bee or something like that – it's an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”

Tebow played for the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets before signing with the New England Patriots last month. His name has left a legacy in football, inspiring the term “Tebowing,” (kneeling in prayer on the field), as well as the Tebow Rule (an NCAA ban against players wearing messages on eye paint. During Tebow’s college career, he often wore biblical verses on his eye black during games).

Perhaps more importantly, the football player’s name has made history for homeschooling athletes and in educational legislation.

As of July 1, Tebow Bills or other similar laws have passed in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.