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.