We spent the better part of this week in Austin working with legislators on key issues important to the home school community in Texas. A week ago today State Representative Harold Dutton (D) of Houston filed HB 1374, which would allow home school students to participate in UIL activities in the school in whose district they reside.
UIL was created in 1913 for all Texas students. In 1915 eligibility was restricted to white, public school students. According to testimony in the Leeper vs. Arlington ISD case, at this time, 80% of the students in Texas were home schooled. Although minority students were allowed to participate in UIL beginning in 1967, home school students are still excluded.
We are referring to this legislation as the “Tim Tebow bill,” since he was a home schooled student who played with a public school team in Florida and later earned a scholarship to the University of Florida. Once at the University of Florida, he won a Heisman Trophy in 2007 and now plays in the NFL.
Collin Klein, Heisman Trophy candidate last year from Kansas State in the Big 12, was also a home school student who played football on a public school team in Colorado.
We are very close to having a Senate sponsor for the same language as HB 1374 in the Texas Senate. While a bill has been filed in the Senate (SB 573) that would allow private schools to take part in UIL in a limited way, it does not specifically include home schools.
This bill is essentially the same language as the Arizona law that has been in place in that state for almost ten years. It states that students who live in the district can participate, but students cannot withdraw from a public school and compete as a home school student in the same school year. It also requires parents to assure each reporting period that the student is passing their classes.
This legislation is simply allowing home schoolers the option to compete in UIL activities. Home schoolers in highly populated areas who have access to a well-organized, successful home school league would have less of an incentive to join UIL. On the other hand, home schoolers in rural areas have limited opportunities to compete in athletic sporting events. The UIL legislation would enable such home schoolers to compete in athletic sports that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
We were very pleased with initial discussions with members of both the House Public Education Committee as well as members of the Education Committee in the Texas Senate. Stay tuned as we move forward on what could be a momentous decision by the Texas legislature. This is an issue that THSC has been working on for almost twenty years.
We continue to work diligently to preserve the freedom of Texas parents to home school. The only way we, as home schoolers, can truly keep ourselves free of regulation is to vigilantly oppose any regulation presented every time the Texas legislature is in session. Each legislative session, THSC leads the battle against any regulation of home schooling and parental rights. We would not support this bill if we believed for a moment that it would jeopardize our precious rights.