SB 573 – Bill to Allow Private Schools to Compete in UIL – Senate Hearing Update

Things got heated today in the Senate Education Committee hearing on SB 573, the bill to allow private schools to compete in UIL activities. I gave testimony, arguing that UIL should get back to the vision of its founders, a vision that originally opened participation to all Texas students. In 1915 participation was restricted to “white public school students.” Minorities started Prairie View Interscholastic League, under the auspices of Prairie View A&M, in the 1920s and were not allowed to compete in UIL until the late 1960s.

We pointed out that UIL had allowed two affluent private schools to compete in UIL 10 years ago with no problems. However, public school officials and a representative of the Texas High School Coaches Association argued that private schools would have an unfair advantage, since they are able to “recruit” students beyond a geographic boundary.

Senator Donna Campbell asked the officials if the public schools were afraid to compete against the private schools and was told, “No.” She pointed out that we should be concerned with students having opportunities to develop their skills and abilities rather than with protecting a “system.”

Senator Dan Patrick forcefully stated that the same arguments that were made by these officials today would have been made in the 1950s regarding why minorities should not be allowed to compete in UIL. Over and over we heard that public and private schools are “different” and should be kept separate, all the while ignoring that UIL has already made an exception for two affluent private schools in Texas.

Privately, UIL officials agreed with me that many private schools would not rush to take part in UIL because of the numerous requirements, including accreditation, but they steadfastly argued that allowing private schools to do so would hurt small, rural public schools. They did not offer any example, other than a public charter school to which UIL had anticipated a rule change to force the small 1A school to compete against schools several times its size.

While the bill was left pending in committee, the votes appear to be there to pass the bill out of committee soon. We hope to have a hearing on SB 929, the home school UIL bill, in the next week or so and we expect to hear many of the same arguments again. We’ll keep you posted.


  1. carrie says

    I have not kept up with this as I am pretty much opposed to home schoolers fighting to obtain the means of anything in the public sector… but I am curious. IT stated in the above article

    “that many private schools would not rush to take part in UIL because of the numerous requirements, including accreditation”

    So how would that help home schoolers become able to participate? I understand we are “private schoole” in Texas, but we are certainly not accredited. So why this fight?

    • Tim Lambert says

      We are strong believers in parental rights and we think that parents should have the right to make as many choices regarding the education of their children as possible. After all, that was our argument back in the 1980s when state leaders were arguing against parents being allowed to teach their children at home. We said we are the parents and therefore should be allowed to make that decision. In my opinion, it is a dangerous thing for us to say that parents should not have the right to make some educational choice because that could very easily be used against us as it was 25 years ago.

      One of the reasons that we argue that home school students should be able to participate is that UIL has already allowed two large affluent private schools to compete in UIL for the last ten years. This undercuts their main argument for opposition that “allowing private schools to compete would destroy the level playing field,” which has not happened. Allowing all traditional private schools to choose to participate if they desire, would not only give these schools and parents more choices it would also make it more difficult for them to deny home school students the opportunity.

      Furthermore, TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) has been heavy handed and arbitrary in dealing with their member schools (including forcing home school students out by requiring that home school teams to compete only in the “home school division.” If private schools had another option this would also bring market place accountability to that organization because private schools would have another widely available option. In fact, TAPPS has already become more responsive to its member schools as a result of this legislation almost becoming law two years ago.

      Finally, from a tactical standpoint we are attacking UIL on two fronts at the same time and we think this gives us more opportunities to change the law for the benefit of homes school families.

  2. Ginny says

    I am on pins and needles for SB 929. I have been naive to the fact that there are as many people out there willing to fight to *not* make it happen.

    • Tim Lambert says

      We are asking for a hearing in the House on HB 1374 and will do so in the Senate on the companion bill SB 929 as soon as it is referred to committee. Calls to the committee and testimony for those bills at that time will be crucial to our success. Those hearing could come within the next two weeks. Stay tuned!

  3. carrie says

    I am sorry I think I did not articulate myself very well… I am VERY much in support of parents making any and all education choices, and any other choice regarding their children. This is not the question or concern…

    my concern- along with things like tax cuts, testing, school sports is that I dont want anything coming along out—- of the desire to “GET” the things other kids in Texas get and that we have the right too—that would eventuallly become nooses around own necks because of regulations or “strings attached”. Sure you can play on the public school sports, but then you have to submit to “x”. Sure you can be a part of UIL, but you are required “x”… I dont want to submit or be required so I want to leave the status quoe alone. :0)

    On my question specifically regarding the article I was asking if a UIL requirement is that the private schools be accredidated? IF so why are we fighting this fight because our “private schools” are not accredidated. If it is NOT a rule that the private schools have to be accredidated then I don’t understand part of the article that states something like that…. IF we are fighting to spefically change that rule than I understand but it was not mentioned that way… and again I will say that I have NOT kept up with the reading regarding this issue as #1. I stated above my concerns and #2. I have no students that this would affect that I know about.

    I don’t care that other parents are fighting for this assuming that their “fight” will not eventually bring regulations that we will have to fight again against.

    I hope I have clarified my position and welcome information if I am uninformed on the subject.

    • Tim Lambert says

      Your concern is a common one that we hear and is based on the assumption that if the state allows home schoolers to do certain things, like take dual credit classes at community colleges, take PSAT tests at public schools, take online courses in the Virtual School Network and allow home school students to access special needs classes, etc. that this will eventually result in the state regulating all home schoolers. Interestingly, we never hear that concern when we are supporting any of those things, but only UIL participation.

      The presumption that if we don’t seek anything from the state they will not seek to regulate us is a false one. There are many in the Texas Legislature and state government (along with the PTA and teacher’s unions) that think all private and home schools should be regulated to the same degree as public schools. What prevents that, from a human standpoint, is the vigilant observation and quick and strong opposition of every effort to erode the freedom that home schoolers and parents have in Texas. That is what THSC has been dedicated to for over 25 years. In fact, one legislator told me just this week that many legislators are “afraid” of the home school community because of our very active participation in campaigns.

      So to directly answer your question, it is not possible for someone to give an assurance that someone will not seek to establish regulations for home schoolers in Texas. In my opinion, however, that is not a reason to refuse to push for expanded freedom and opportunities for home schoolers and private schools that benefit the whole community. Those that I listed above are examples of what we have sought and won for home schoolers in Texas. Along the way we have forced legislators to withdraw bills or killed them by votes in the Texas House and Senate when those bills would have been detrimental to our freedom. THSC’s watchfulness and call to action to oppose such measures and the vigorous response of the home school community has resulted in maintaining the freedoms that we have, not refusing to ask for additional freedom and opportunities for home school students.

      I think I answered your question about why we are supporting SB 573 in my previous post. HB 1374 and SB 929 directly address home school participation in UIL and we expect a hearing on those bills soon.

  4. Chris Barnes says

    I’m going to give a different perspective and a reason why I am STRONGLY opposed to this legislation: allowing homeschoolers to participate in UIL will utterly destroy homeschool athletic programs that have been created all over the state.

    Back in the early 2000’s my 3 daughters were just getting into their junior high age years and 2 of my daughters wanted to begin playing competitive basketball and softball. There were virtually no competitive athletic options for homeschoolers …. so we did what all good homeschool parents USED to do – we organized and created our own. Despite the fact that getting independent minded homeschoolers to do anything cooperatively, within a couple of years we built up an athletic association of 7 basketball teams (from JrHigh to Varsity), a football team, a boys varsity baseball team, 2 varsity girls softball teams, 2 varsity girls volleyball teams, and a cheer squad. What’s more – we strived to NEVER turn away a homeschool child who wanted to play (ie. we didn’t have tryouts which cut players – try that in public or private school). And we did all this in a relatively small community (Bryan/College Station).

    Our biggest problem was that local private schools began to actively ‘recruit’ our best players (no doubt there were students at the private school that were not able to play because of this too). This was a problem for us because it drained the players from the homeschool teams – in some cases to the point that we no longer had enough players to make a team. In other words, this practice REDUCED opportunities for homeschool students as a whole. On average, for every one homeschool student who was allowed to play in a private school, there were 5 who lost the opportunity to participate.

    This is the point that I believe THSC has completely ignored. They are looking at the one player who might be the next “Tim Tebow superstar” and ignoring the masses of kids who will not go on to get athletic scholarships.

    Let me correct a statement I have heard before that attempts to counter this argument. It has been said “those other 5 players could still go play at a private (or if this bill passes, public) school if they choose”. The blunt answer is
    No, they do not have this choice available.

    The reality is that this choice is ONLY available to those students who are gifted with the athleticism to make the “cut”. The private (and public) schools don’t provide competitive athletic opportunities for EVERYONE that are already there. What makes anyone thing they will begin doing it if they get an influx of new people?

    • Tim Lambert says


      There are many home schoolers in rural areas of Texas far smaller than Bryan/College Station. Those students have no options. Years ago TAPPS changed their rules that had allowed private schools that were a part of their association to let home school students participate on their teams. The change was to set up a separate “home school division” in which home school teams could compete against other home school teams. The result was no home school students participating in TAPPS schools. Thus, there are fewer opportunities for home school students to participate in private schools than there were ten years ago. While the result in some ares may be as you described there will be vastly more opportunities for most home schoolers in Texas. Finally, no competitive system guarantees every student the right to play and I think everyone understands that.

  5. Julie Jumes says

    Hasn’t THSC’s position on this and vouchers changed since the 90s when you had many convinced these things would bring regulation? Doesn’t every state which has adopted these have less homeschool freedom than TX? Have the issues changed? Isn’t there more standardization/state/federal control than ever (STAAR & CSCOPE)? Sitting in education hearings has me more convinced than ever that tax dollars are viewed as state money and the more of it we accept (in the form of coach salaries/equipment/vouchers…) the more control they will take. Again, as a 15yr home educator who sat under your teaching in the 90s, grew up in homeschooling hearing of the trips to the closet to hide and such, are we really ready to trade the freedom for the opportunity. Is it really not the question anymore? How has it changed?

    • Tim Lambert says

      You are mistaken. HSLDA has changed their position on this issue from opposed to “neutral.” They have made the arguments you refer to not THSC. We have been consistently working for equal access for over 15 years. The language in HB 1374 and SB 929 is the language from the Arizona statute that has virtually the same level of freedom as Texas and the law has been in place for over ten years with no change in freedom for home schoolers. 27 other states allow home schoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities that range from high regulation states like Pennsylvania to low regulation states like Arizona and Idaho.

      Its interesting that this issue of government control only comes up on this issue. We did not hear such concerns when we changed the law to force colleges to accept home school graduates as high school graduates or community colleges to allow home school students to take dual credit classes or public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT at their schools. Home school students with special needs may also access some services at the public school as well and we have never had problems with those situations.

      Julie, if you have heard me speak on several occasions, you have no doubt heard me say that our freedom is always at risk when the legislature is in session. We are tracking over 50 bills this session many of whom would be detrimental to home schoolers and the fact that home school students are not allowed to have equal access to UIL has not stopped them from filing such bills nor will it in the future. We will not trade our freedom for these opportunities. Neither should we refuse to seek more freedom because we are afraid of state regulation.

  6. Randal Hoskins says

    Regardless of anyone’s position either way, the fact remains that even though I homeschool my children, I still pay property taxes that fund our public school system, and yet I cannot benefit from the very things for which I pay.

    I believe that not only UIL, but ALL publicly paid-for services and assets should be made available for all students, whether those students are educated publicly or privately (including home-school). It is my belief that home-school students should be allowed to benefit from all the FINE ARTS and SPORTS benefits from the public school system BECAUSE WE FUND IT. Why should it be that we are disallowed access to that for which we pay?

  7. Kim Martin says

    Thank you so much, Tim, for your tireless work on our behalf! While we are busy as one-armed paper hangers here in the trenches of educating our kids, you are out there paving and protecting the way to do it. I cannot thank you enough!

    I agree with Randal. We pay taxes. We should be allowed to benefit from them, the same as public school families. The status quo is unfair.

  8. Tim Lambert says

    Just FYI, the Senate Education Committee voted SB 573 out of committee today by a vote of 6-2 and it will be heading to the floor of the Senate soon and on to the House.

  9. Tracey says

    I think the big difference, if I’m understanding this correctly, is that private schools, like charter schools now, would not be required to compete in UIL events within the public school district boundaries in which they live, but that homeschoolers would. This makes a big difference and it’s fair to all. Homeschoolers would compete within the school district in which they live, but private schools (like charter schools currently) wouldn’t have to, giving them an unfair advantage and the temptation of “recruiting” the best of the best (in UIL events) to compete on THEIR team at THEIR private or charter school. I think SB 929, the home school UIL bill, should have a better chance at passing because it’s more fair than the private school bill.

    • Tim Lambert says

      You are correct. Interestingly, UIL likes to ignore the fact that they have already allowed two affluent private schools to compete in UIL for ten years as well as Charter schools and magnate public schools. So, it is possible to do so fairly without “destroying the level playing field.”

      Also interesting to note UIL adopted a new rule last fall that will require the 950 student charter schools (class A) in Dallas to compete against 5A schools…hardly a level playing field or fair. In fact, the UIL spokesman talked about a “two-pronged attack on these schools.” This is the pattern of UIL to exclude any school that is different and in the case of charter schools the new rule appears to be designed to force them out of competition all together.

  10. Wade Hulcy says


    You summed up the essence of argument in your blog, a parent’s right to choose what is right for his own child. Two of my sons, and several other homeschool boys, played football for Garland Christian Academy in the late 80s. When they were ready to move to the varsity level, we were told that TAPPS had changed their rules and homeschoolers could not play on the varsity level any more. A couple of years later I asked the coach at our little public high school in Anna if my third son could play football for him, He winced at my 220 pound son and said, “No, we can’t allow homeschoolers to play varsity sports here.”

    Homeschool leagues are great, as are private school sports. But that is still not the issue. The issue goes back to the foundings of America when someone said, “I disagree completely with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The same is true here. We may never agree on the choice others make for their child, but we will defend to the death their right, no, their solemn duty and responsibility to make that choice. The solitary issue is a parent’s right and responsibility to direct the education of his child. It can never be about anything more, anything less, nor anything else.

  11. Roger says

    There are a number of very good points that have already been made. I would like to address some of the comments of Chris Barnes specifically while acknowledging the other contributions.

    I have been heavily involved in a home school sports organization for several years. I have specifically been heavily involved in building a soccer league within the organization. In our soccer league, we have done our best to adhere to the principals that Chris described i.e. never turning a homeschooler away.

    Chris makes several very valid points. For instance, it is often a challenge to get–as Chris put it–independent minded homeschoolers to cooperate. Further, we have seen in the other sports as well as soccer that the most gifted players are often recruited and “stolen” away by select teams and private and sometimes public schools. But we have also seen many of our players obtain sports related scholarships or at the very least go on to play in college.

    I find it interesting that–in my opinion–the essence of the arguments presented by those that offered testimony opposed to the bill really boil down to the fact that the public schools simply don’t want the competition. Really that is the essence of the argument against home and private schools by proponents of the public school system most of the time…again in my opinion.

    I suggest that if we oppose this bill we are no better. We are simply asking that our organizations be protected from the competition from the public schools for the “better” players because UIL does not allow us play in their leagues. And, as a side benefit, we get to call the UIL the “bad guy” even though we too don’t want the competition.

    As Chris pointed out, there is an ENORMOUS amount of work involved in developing a sports league. But it has been my observation that the average homeschool parent will go to great lengths to acquire the best academic curriculum and demand a high level of focus on studies. In contrast, anything sports related tends to take a back seat. Commitment to the team i.e. attending practices and games and even practice sessions at home are secondary and receive little if any attention. Unfortunately, that is often the case with respect to the volunteer coaches as well. That generally leaves the players as mediocre at best.

    Certainly I don’t mean to diminish the ABSOLUTE necessity of focus on academics. However, aren’t we to do ALL that we do as unto the Lord. The Lord NEVER delivers mediocrity to us!

    If our homeschool sports teams must compete against better teams, it serves to force the homeschool teams to get better in order to compete for and generally make better players. It seems to me that is exactly why we homeschool to begin with. We want the absolute BEST for our kids. Why should sports be any different?

    Sports is typically the “face” of an academic organization. Honestly, when was the last time you saw 100,000 screaming fans at a spelling bee?! But you see it frequently at sporting events. I am of the opinion that we can use sports to further the cause of homeschooling. For example, it is difficult to argue that a homeschooler isn’t properly socialized when he or she is engaged in a sporting event that draws hundreds or even thousands of fans. Further, such excitement tends to draw attention…good attention. The kind of attention that we want so that we encourage others to homeschool.

    Many of us are of the opinion that the public school system has become nothing more than indoctrination camps designed to undermine the values that made this country great. I am of the opinion that through homeschooling we can begin again to instill the values that are so vital to maintaining our liberty. As demonstrated over and over again, sports is an excellent vehicle to promote an academic institution. Homeschooling is no exception and although we are typically independent minded, if we use the vehicle of sports to unify and be the best we can be we can put the homeschooler’s best foot forward.

    It is for these reasons I support THSC’s efforts in attempting to get these bills passed.

  12. Celeste Hurley says

    First, Tremendous thanks to Tim and all the work you do on our behalf in Austin.
    Second, having home schooled for some 25 years, I have seen many phases and changes both in attitudes and practice. One of those is a desire to have some of the special parts of public school, without the accountability that is required.
    In the 90’s I served our local association and fielded the calls from local Christian schools. It was before the TAPPS rules changed and the schools wanted to recruit homeschool athletes; we only had to provide test scores and grades. Needless to say, there were no takers.
    Now that the public school is the question. how will our students comply with ‘no pass-no play’? It just seems to be an opportunity to invite government oversight of our schools.
    Third, while competative sports can help teach some character qualities, to what lengths will we go in order to play? Excepting athletics, PSIA is available to us as private schools.
    This argument seems to me to speak to priorities.
    And yes, Chris, cat-herding has always been challenging, but you have done a great job!

    • Tim Lambert says


      I have addressed the accountability question in other posts, but let me restate it. The language of HB 1374 and SB 929 require the parent to sign a document each reporting period to show that the student is passing courses. We may also accept a requirement to have a home school student take a national achievement test (CAT, SAT, ITBS, etc.) each year or two at the beginning of the year to show academic progress. This would not be much different than what happened before TAPPS shut home schoolers out. I would also point out that there were indeed home schoolers who opted to participate in TAPPS under those guidelines, which is why they eventually changed the rules to allow only those in the “home school division to compete against other home school teams as a way to exclude home schoolers from general competition.

      The issue of inviting government control of our schools only seems to arise on the issue of UIL participation. No one voiced such concerns when we worked to changed the law to force state colleges to accept home school graduates as high school graduates or community colleges to allow home school students to take dual credit classes or public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT at their schools. In fact, home school students with special needs may also access some services at the public schools as well and we have never had problem as a result of any of these changes to garner more freedom and opportunities for home schoolers in Texas.

      No one will force any home schooler to participate in UIL. It will be an option for those who choose to do so, if the legislation passes. We believe every parent should have the opportunity to make these decisions based on the priorities of their family. Other states like Arizona and Idaho that have little or no regulation of home schooling have adopted such legislation and have not suffered a loss of freedom with the laws on the books for over ten years.

  13. Julie Jumes says


    Thank you for the clarification. It has helped ease my concern and motivate further research on the topic. I do believe parents should be entitled to the UIL option, but I am not convinced it won’t bring regulation to all, certainly more work for organization’s like THSC. The comparison to college dual credit, entrance and such seems a bit weak in light of the fact that college students in general have much more freedom. The state doesn’t have or seemingly desire as much control over things like testing, specific curricula, degree plans and such. Professors aren’t typically rated and salaries aren’t dependent on standardized test scores… And, as competitive as Texas sports can get (interestingly enough I was on teams with Shelby Sharp’s daughters in high school sports and went on to be a Longhorn athelete) I believe it will bring more attention to homeschooling. That paired with the heated outrage against standardized testing…were I a public school parent with a very competitive athelete having to spend much time studying for STAAR exams and my student was outdone by a homeschool kid not required to take them, I might cry foul. The situation carries much more weight with involved parents because of the very nature of Texas high school sports, doesn’t it?

  14. Julie Jumes says

    Further on the dual credit comparison and the difference in control/freedom: There is an incredible English teacher employed by my local school district. I would love for my children to take English from him during middle/high school, but we can’t pick & choose. We can’t do a class or two of public school. It must be the whole day, accepting the entire curricula/hours in class/degree specification/standardized testing package. What I have been able to do is get this teacher hired by a community college to offer dual credit courses, but his salary is not payed by the district. It is payed by the community college which charges tuition to students (all students) taking dual credit courses outside of public schools. And, even allowing this, our own instructor, has brought increased regulation of number and types of courses allowed, transcript specifications and such with the community college.

    In a truly free, ideal, “choice”, competative education system, I would be able to have my students in an eighth grade English course taught by this man, because my taxes help pay his salary, but, again, the general view of state education dollars is not that they belong to the parent/student but the state. And, if you are taking state money, I can’t see how anyone would think that the state won’t start requiring STAAR testing and included in this testing will be a biology test in 10th/11th grade which will require affirming evolution in order to pass. This is but one example of the can of worms being opened.

    • Tim Lambert says


      Some public schools do allow home school students to “pick and choose” by taking a couple of classes of their choice. That of course is a local school decision. Lubbock ISD does so and I’m not aware of any attempt to regulate home schools as a result of this. In fact, this has been going on for many years and contrary to your point, there has been no push for a requirement of testing. I would also point out that it is possible to work within the system, either the educational system, or the legislative system to oppose or change rules or laws. That of course is why we must always be vigilant.

  15. Julie Jumes says


    Thanks again! Knowing that Lubbock has that option encourages me to keep working at the local level. Again, I do agree that parents should have the right to choose UIL but am concerned for the battles it might bring. Your confidence is an encouragement and I am thankful for all that the THSC does to keep, even grow, our freedoms.