Yesterday the Texas Senate Education Committee voted to pass SB 929, the “Tim Tebow Bill” that will allow home school students to participate in UIL activities in the school district in which they reside. The vote was 7-1, with one senator not voting.
The language of the bill was amended to include the definition of home schooling that is in the Texas Education Code (29.916) and to require the measure to be “sunset,” or reauthorized, in four years. The measure will move to the Senate floor if 21 senators support it, which we think will happen within the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime Chairman Aycock of the House Public Education Committee has told us the House version of this measure (HB 1374) will have a hearing on April 9. We expect to have testimony, in support and also in opposition, at this hearing, similar to what we heard in the Senate Education Committee last week. We believe we already have a majority of the members of the House Public Education Committee in support of this bill.
Some home schoolers have opposed these bills, arguing that they would lead to the regulation of all home schoolers in Texas. We disagree. We do agree that every time the legislature is in session our home school freedoms are at risk and that we must be vigilant. In fact, almost every session there are attempts to pass legislation that would erode our parental rights and freedom to home school, and that is why THSC is always on the alert to oppose any such legislation. Whether or not home schoolers are allowed to take part in UIL, there will continue to be efforts to limit our home school freedom.
While opponents argue that passing these bills into law will result in a loss of home school freedoms, they fail to note that over the last two decades we have seen a number of state legislative changes, including requiring public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT in public schools, allowing home school students to take dual credit classes in community colleges, and requiring state colleges to treat home school graduates the same as public high school graduates for college admission.
Some opponents also argue that home schoolers should not be distinguished from traditional private school students. However, as I’ve mentioned, this is already the case in the Texas Education Code. In fact, in the 1990s HSDLA filed a federal lawsuit in San Antonio in the Perez case to argue that the Federal Gun Free School Zone Act passed by Congress should not apply to home schools because they are different from traditional schools.
None of these issues have resulted in the loss of our freedom to home school. While we should be vigilant to protect that freedom, we should not allow fear to keep us from expanding the freedom of home school students in Texas.