UIL Participation for Home Schoolers – Update on SB 929

I spent most of the week in Austin again last week. Our long-sought effort to allow home school students to participate in UIL activities made huge strides. The hearing on SB 929 in the Senate Education Committee went well, and the committee substitute had language that allowed a home school student to demonstrate academic eligibility by taking a national norm-referenced test, like California Achievement Test or Iowa Basic Skills, etc., and scoring at or above the average. UIL officials have said this bill would not negatively impact the “level playing field” or otherwise undermine the current system.

Representatives of public school superintendents and coaches testified against the bill, arguing that it would be unfair to public school students. Some home schoolers also testified against the measure on the grounds that home schooling would have to be defined and that allowing home schoolers to participate would ultimately lead to regulation of all home schoolers. A strong number registered in favor of the bill, and I gave testimony noting the discrimination against home schoolers and minority students that began in 1915, two years after UIL was established for all students in Texas.

I pointed out that the Texas Education Code (TEC) already contains a definition of home schooling (TEC 29.916), which was added when legislation we supported was adopted that forces public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT in the districts in which they live. I also pointed out that a number of low-regulation states like Arizona, Utah, and Idaho already allow home schoolers to participate and doing so has not resulted in a loss of home school freedom in those states.

In meetings with senators later in the week, we agreed to reference in this bill the definition already in the Education Code and we received assurances from UIL officials that the requirements of enrollment and regular attendance at a public school and credit requirements related to public school curriculum would not apply to home school students. It also appears likely that language may be added requiring this law to be reviewed in several years in order to address any possible concerns raised by coaches and superintendents.

We appear to have votes in the Senate Education Committee. We expect SB 929 to be voted out tomorrow and hopefully out of the full Senate sometime soon thereafter. In the meantime we have the votes to pass HB 1374 (the House Companion Bill) out of the Public Education Committee in the Texas House, and Chairman Aycock has assured a hearing this week or next. Since it is not on the calendar for this week, we are hoping for next week and if possible we will substitute SB 929 if it is out of the Senate by then.

Please take a look at the members of the Public Education Committee in the House. If your state representative is on this committee, please call him or her and ask them support HB 1374 and UIL participation for Texas home schoolers. You can find our talking points for the Tim Tebow Bill here.

Comments

  1. Tammy M. says

    Since you have to be testing in order to participate in UIL, what is to stop the TEA from wanting testing and regulation of all homeschoolers because of this bill? How is this not opening Pandora’s box for all Texas homeschoolers? My family has been homeschooling for 13 years now and we are not in favor of this bill. (also, I read in one of the earlier posts regarding this bill that football was not included in the list of UIL sports, is that so?)

    • Tim Lambert says

      Tammy,
      The TEA does not have any authority over home schools and in order for them to require anything of home schoolers the legislature would have to pass a bill in each house and the governor sign it into law. As I mentioned in the posting, other low regulation states like Arizona have had this in place for over a decade without a loss of freedom to home school families and we would vigorously oppose any legislation that would erode our freedom. This bill would simply give home school families the ability to choose to participate in UIL if they choose to do so. It would not impact other home school families.

      The earlier post you referred to was in regard to SB 573 which applies to traditional private schools. SB 929 applies only to home schools and would allow home school students to participate in the district in which they live in all UIL activities.

  2. Grant says

    I’m currently enrolled in public school where I play football. If this bill passes I will withdraw and begin homeschooling, while still playing sports through the school. I love this measure, the only thing that worries me is that if it passes, but receive the 2/3 vote necessary to become effective immediately and becomes effective September 1st, then I will technically be ineligible for our first game, which is tenatively scheduled for August 30th. Is there any exception that could be made whatsoever in terms of eligibility with the game being only two days too early? Is there any way the September 1st date could be moved up to say August 1st? The September 1st date would affect band as well as football.

    • Tim Lambert says

      The 2/3 vote is required to become effective immediately upon passage, otherwise it becomes effective September 1st, which I expect. I don’t expect an exception but there could be a determination made by UIL officials during the transition time.

  3. Rachel says

    Tim
    Thank you! I cannot express how impressed I am with your work for Texas homeschool families! We are a veteran homeschool family whose children went to high school in order to play sports. We lived in a rural area and had no choice if they were to continue to play. We have supported this UIL measure since the beginning. Please keep us updated as we are still involved with the homeschool group in Amarillo.
    Thanks so much!!

    • Cindy says

      I don’t know Rachel, but our family is in the exact same position as hers – we are a veteran home school family living in a small town an hour from Amarillo – and we are also very supportive of this UIL measure (and have been since the beginning). We also ended up sending our oldest children to public school because that is the only way our children could have opportunities to participate and excel in sports, choir, band and other activities. We have other children whom we still home school, and our first choice is to continue doing so. The passage of this bill would mean so much to us. We and our friends and extended family are praying for the passage of this bill. Thank you so very much, Tim and THSC, for all the work you do for home school families in Texas!

      • Tim Lambert says

        Our arguments in support of this bill have included the fact that families will not have to choose between home schooling and extra-curricular activities and of course we pay taxes to support the public education system. THSC has been working on this issue for 15 years and it looks like this might be the session when it passes.

        The concern of many is that passing such a bill will somehow result of regulation of all home schoolers. We don’t think that will happen because we will continue to vigilantly monitor legislation to oppose an effort to do so.

        • Abby says

          We are another homeschool family about an hour and a half from Amarillo who would love to see this pass. My kids have not made it to junior high yet, but they love to play sports. I have prayed since we started homeschooling that something like this would happen. Thank you for the time and effort you have invested. We will continue to pray. I have a couple of very hopeful kids in my house, as well as their mom and dad!

  4. says

    Praise God! I’m continuing to pray for the success of these bills. My primary interest is participation in musical and academic UIL events. What an opportunity!

  5. renee.conners@gmail.com says

    If the bill passes, then home school children will be allowed to participate in UIL events. Does this mean they can join the school teams in our districts (i.e. golf, football, choir) or would we need to organize teams within our home school communities then submit our teams to the UIL organizers to be put on the competition rosters?

    Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication to this subject!

  6. Mary says

    “Representatives of public school superintendents and coaches testified against the bill,” because this measure “would be unfair to public school students,” but they fail to see that paying taxes into a system that offers homeschool families no benefit is unfair to homeschool students. Thank you for your efforts to get this bill passed. My one concern, which I don’t think can be legislated, is that coaches either won’t allow homeschoolers to make the team, or that they won’t play them if they do.

    • Tim Lambert says

      Mary, there is no doubt that some home schoolers will face the sort of animosity you mention as did minority students who were finally allowed to compete in UIL in 1968 after over 50 years of being excluded. I’ve heard some stories about such discrimination. However, the driving effort to win among coaches is often the thing that overcomes this animosity and discrimination.

  7. Rachel says

    Can you tell us who voted against the bill today? I think I know, but would love to be sure. Thanks!

  8. Chad says

    I’m not sure I understand how this bill would be “unfair to public school students.” Because of more competition? Thanks for your hard work

    • Tim Lambert says

      Their arguement is that the home school students don’t have to meet the same requirements with regard to “credits” and they are concerned that home schoolers can “practice all day” and they don’t trust parents to require home school students to be passing all courses.

      • Amy Chenault says

        As a former UIL director and coach and now as a home schooling mom, I am one of those who opposes this bill. If this bill were to become law, I can envision parents pulling their kids from public school JUST so they can give them passing grades and make them eligible for UIL participation (a way of getting around the “no pass/no play” rules). And yes, there are (at least there used to be) UIL rules dictating length of practice times and rules regarding rewards, etc. I understand the desire home school families have for extracurricular opportunities, but I don’t think we should be looking to the public school system for these activities. I realize our tax dollars are funding them, but the activities are tied to state laws that we, as home schoolers, have opted out of. Whether or not we should be paying taxes for extracurricular is a different subject matter, but one that I believe is of greater issue.

        • Tim Lambert says

          Amy,

          The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee prohibits students who withdraw from public school to participate in UIL till the next school year and also requires a score of 50% or above on a national norm-referenced test to participate. Finally, while home schoolers in the larger cities of Texas have lots of opportunities for extra-curricular activities many in rural areas have no options. All the same UIL rules will apply and if evidence is presented to show that any are breaking the rules sanctions will also apply.

          • Amy Chenault says

            If home schooled students wish to participate in UIL activities, they should be willing to follow the same UIL rules as public school students. The “no pass; no play” law requires a minimum grade of 70 on all course work (except identified advanced classes) and this applies to the course work completed during each grading period; it is not a one time norm referenced test. Home school students should also be prepared to participate in random drug testing since this is required of those in public education. These are issues that I hope home schooling families are considering if they desire admittance into the UIL program.

          • Tim Lambert says

            Amy,
            The bill does require home school students to meet the same requirement of passing courses each reporting period. The parents are required to confirm the student is passing each reporting period just as teachers are required to do in the public school. The national test is an additional requirement in the first six weeks. All other UIL rules would apply including those you mentioned.

          • says

            I agree with Amy. This opens up a new can of worms that many homeschoolers do not want to deal with. Tim, I hope that THSC will continue to protect the rights of parents to homeschool under current Texas law over and above the right to play sports. I feel that extracurricular activities are much lower in priority for our children than the influence that we, the parents, have on them.

            While it may be true that homeschoolers in rural areas have fewer extracurricular opportunities, that can change. We live in a rural area north of DFW, and parents are always willing to step up and provide avenues for our children. Because parents sought for ways around the public school system, our rural area has award winning basketball teams for boys and girls, two volleyball teams, cross country, track, co-ops, cotillion, English Country dancing, American Heritage Girls, Boy Scouts, 4H, and more. They are all led by homeschool moms and dads and the list keeps growing.

            If you don’t have opportunities in your area, make them!

          • Tim Lambert says

            Nicki,

            First, let me say that Amy’s question was whether or not a local public school board or official could deny a home school student to participate under this law and my answer was they will not be able to do so.

            I always find it interesting that opponents of allowing home school parents to make this choice for their children never seemed to have a concern about “the can of worms” problem when we changed the law to require public schools to allow our students to take the PSAT, be treated the same a public high school graduates for college admission, take dual credit classes at community colleges the same a public high schools or any of many of the changes we have made over the last decade to end discrimination against home schoolers.

            Why is it only on this issue that the fear is raised “issues that home schoolers don’t want to deal with?” None of us want to deal with issues of discrimination or attempted government regulation, but that is what THSC does every day. We’ve been at the legislature since early January tracking over a hundred bills and testifying against most of them. Every time the legislature is in session our freedom is at risk. Denying home school parents this choice will not make us safer or more free it will only limit the freedom of home schoolers.

  9. Felicia says

    This is awesome. Our son will be in junior high next year and the hs sports league is 45 minutes away, but the local school is less than 5 minutes. Good job for working on this.

  10. linda hale says

    We just heard that Justin Jackson verbally committed to North Carolina. I think his skills are pretty well developed. That said, thanks for doing this. I do believe passing this bill is the right thing for the legislature to do.

  11. mark says

    I have been an educator and coach in the public school system for 20 years. I understand the rules and regulations that public school students have to follow. There are consequences for failure to comply with the rules. The rules include such things as: being to class on time, dress code, behavior in the classroom, ets. For athletes, consequences for not complying may range from disciplinary conditioning to missing games or competitions. I know if my athletes misbehave or break rules, they pay for their mistakes. Consistency is very important in the public school system.

    In regards to homeschooling , I feel like there is a huge lack of consistency. One for instance : I know families that constantly leave and take trips out of town, when public school students are expected to be in the classroom. Homeschooled students are not held accountable on the same scale as public school students. This is just one of many many examples that I could use.

    I strongly oppose SB 929. I know that you will have your argument in favor of the bill. The bottom line is that there are too many inconsistencies when comparing public school student responsibility levels to homeschool student responsibilities.

    If homeschooled students want to participate in UIL activities, then they need to become students of public schools, plain and simple !!!

    • Tim Lambert says

      Mark,
      With all due respect, UIL officials have testified that there would be no problem in implementing home schoolers into UIL under this bill and applying all the rules with the exception of enrollment, attendance and credits required for courses. They have said that the rules in place would be sufficient to maintain fairness and equity. 27 other states do this and make it work.

      In 1913 UIL was established by the Texas Legislature and its first constitution made it available for all students in Texas. Two years later that document was changed to allow only “white public school students” to participate. At that time, according to evidence presented at the Leeper vs. Arlington ISD case, as much as 80% of the students in Texas were being home schooled. UIL was forced in the late 1960s to allow minority students into UIL. Its time that home school students are allowed back in as well!

  12. Nicole says

    I am worried about this bill. Let’s be honest, usually legislation is an open door into a loss of freedom. It may not be this decade, but who is to say it won’t lead to testing standards implemented on HS families, and a redefinition of what HS is?? This is a slick move, and could be dangerous for the future. Why don’t we just make a HS league or something? Why do you need to work with Public schools anyway??

    • Tim Lambert says

      Nicole,

      Every time the legislature is in session our freedoms are at risk. In order for our opponents to take our freedom they would have to pass a bill in the House and the Senate and the Governor would have to sign it into laws. That is why THSC spends some much time and money every session to monitor and oppose legislation that could limit our freedom as we have done this session. Whether this bill passes or not there will be attempts that we must oppose. As someone has famously said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!”

      The assumption you make is that if we don’t do this somehow we won’t face such attempts and that is not true. On the other hand, you could have made the same argument when we changed the law to force the public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT, because in some areas that’s the only place they are offered. You could have said the same thing when we changed the law to require public universities to recognized home school graduates as high school graduates or when we passed a law to require community colleges to allow home school students to take dual credit classes the same as public schools. I could go on and on, but my point is that all of these changes that were made for the benefit of home schoolers and could have been called a “slick” effort that “could be dangerous for the future.”

      We are one of the freest home school states in the nation because we have worked to change laws to make things better for home schoolers and worked harder to oppose any attempt to take away our freedom. We didn’t get here by cowering in our homes and hoping the government will not take our freedoms away if we don’t do anything.

      And to answer your last questions, we do have home school leagues, but in many rural areas of Texas there are not enough home schoolers to have a league and the only option is a public school.

  13. Jasmine Brown says

    I am excited….I hope this passes. Thank you for working diligently to pass these bills. My son starts high school next year, and we so want to swim.

  14. Dollie MIller says

    Whatever happened to “In Texas, home schools are considered private schools, and private schools are not regulated in Texas?” That was a quote I heard regularly from you, Tim Lambert, and used repeatedly in Newcomer Meetings. Now, we want to separate them by law, so that we open the door to being regulated? This is alarming to me!! I am very concerned that things have changed with THSC. I have been homeschooling since 1994, and am very concerned about this piece of legislation. I am very disappointed and disturbed that you are avidly supporting this. I salute Kel Seliger for opposing it, simply because it redefines homeschooling.

    To quote a friend:
    “Unfortunately once government begins defining something it is only a matter of time until it is regulated. And we simply cannot know what future elections or legislative sessions will bring. During Senate Committee testimony on SB 929, committee members in favor of the bill made statements that the testing this bill put in place might increase academic rigor among home schoolers and give them extra hoops to jump through, and that could be a good thing. This was despite testimony from many that noted that home schoolers routinely outperform public school students. Other committee members unfamiliar with home schooling in Texas saw this as an opportunity to ask many questions about what regulations and testing requirements home schools have to comply with, making it clear that legislation like these bills will certainly increase legislative interference in the options available to parents who choose to educate their children via private means, whether at home or otherwise.

    Haven’t other states done this without issues? Very few states are as free as Texas when it comes to private school opportunities (including home schools). Of those, only Idaho and Alaska have similar provisions for participation in public school competitions. Idaho’s law is similar to this one in that it attempts to define terms exhaustively and leave determination of academic progress to the parent. Alaksa instead requires accreditation of participating home schools. While proponents of these bills in Texas point to Arizona as a state with low regulation and a “Tebow Bill,” Arizona regulates home schools and private schools separately and requires that a home school be conducted primarily by the parent or person who has custody of the child or in the child’s home. Tim Tebow himself was home schooled in Florida, which has significantly more regulation than Texas and also has separate categories in the law for home schools conducted by the parent in the home and other cooperative efforts between multiple families which have additional regulations.”

    • Tim Lambert says

      Dollie,

      We are not redefining home schooling in this bill. The definition of home schooling is in the Texas Education Code and tracks the Leeper decision language. We are not regulating home schooling the bill only applies to home schoolers who want to participate in UIL.

      Dollie, every time the legislature is in session our freedom is at risk and THSC spends a lot of time and money to kill bills that would erode that freedom, as we have this session. Home schoolers can not be regulated unless a bill passes the House and Senate and is signed into law by the Governor, which gives us lots of opportunities to kill the bill.

  15. Julie Jumes says

    Can you clarify: Is it true to say “In Tx a home school is a private school and private schools aren’t regulated?” Doesn’t the Tim Tebow bill contradict this by distinguishing between home schools and private schools? With the increase in regulation and things like the CNBC commercial saying that “Children belong to communities not parents or their families, so we should increase public education funding”, shouldn’t we be more vigilant than ever, not compromising our position as private schools by distinguishing ourselves as a separate group? Don’t we lose much political backing as a separate group? I have stayed somewhat neutral on this but Dollie and other veteran home educators are making some extremely good points and the fact that it is being called the “Tim Tebow Bill” and AZ is being cited as a positive example makes it feel like some of the real issues are not being transparently relayed. Most don’t realize that the education code was changed to distinguish between home schools and private schools with the PSAT. I even counsel others that students can take it at local public schools but had no idea the code had changed to distinguish for that purpose. I would have expected the THSC to oppose that. I would have expected THSC to be alerting everyone to it with this bill.

    When I attended a charters/voucher senate hearing last fall, I was coached on what to say re: charters/vouchers bringing increased regulation that “thousands would be on the steps of the state capital at the hint of increased regulation for home schools and private schools.” The billionaire coaching me to say this is passionate about this because his children are in an unregulated private school. Again, I think we lose much backing when we separate from this group. The trade for competitive sports and fine arts participation will bring much more attention to this distinction by people much more concerned about rules than those administering/arranging for their children to take the PSAT. Much more money, time and concern is spent on competitive sports in Texas by far than on the PSAT. Aren’t the stakes much higher?

    • Tim Lambert says

      Home schools were ruled private schools in the Leeper case for the purpose of exemption from the compulsory attendance laws. 30 years ago we hid behind the private schools because there were so few of us. In recent years we have used the term home school to make a distinction between home schools and traditional private school beginning with HSLDA’s federal suit filed in San Antonio against the Gun Free School Zone Act to argue that a home school is different from a traditional private school and the federal law that prohibited guns near or in a school did not apply to a home school.

      We have made other changes to the benefit of home schoolers using the term home school for that purpose. Today is not the 1980s and we have more home schoolers and more influence and support than we have ever had. So I disagree with your assessment that we lose influence by being separated from private schools. In fact, it is home schoolers who were responsible for almost passing the private school UIL bill last session. They need us more than we need them.

      Your argument about drawing attention to home schoolers as a result of these action and that being detrimental is exactly the argument that some home schoolers used in opposing the Leeper case back in the 1980s. They even went so far as to try to try to decertify the class in the Leeper case. Their fears that drove them to oppose the Leeper case proved to be unfounded and the Leeper case had a huge impact for freedom for home schoolers in Texas.

    • Tim Lambert says

      One of the UIL requirements is full-time enrollment and regular attendance at the public school. However, UIL allowed two Jesuit private schools to participate ten years ago but only these two. We have supported the private school UIL bill that would allow all private schools to participate, but that bill would not include home schools.

  16. Julie Jumes says

    Why, if “a homeschool is a private school” could the bill not be written treating home schools as private schools as in the Leeper case? I was neutral and content dropping the argument that UIL participation would bring more attention, but this distinguishing as outside the group of private schools has me more and more disturbed, not only that it’s in this bill, but that the THSC has allowed the distinction to become so prevelant. Has anyone stopped saying “A home school is a private school and private schools aren’t regulated?” It really isn’t true anymore. Wow, that is huge!

    • Tim Lambert says

      Julie,

      Can you tell me how you think it is not true that private schools are not regulated? I’m not aware of ANY regulation that is required by the state of private schools in Texas. The bill in question is written differently from the private school bill that we also supported because under the home school bill a student participates as an individual and is able to try out for the team or compete as an individual for the school in the area in which they live. The private school bill allows traditional private schools to compete as a team against other UIL teams. The author of private school UIL bill drafted it so that it would not apply to home schoolers, therefore we have responded with a bill that would apply only to home schools.

  17. Julie Jumes says

    Re: “They need us more than we need them.” I am thinking this is non-topical. If “Our freedoms are always at risk when law makers are in session,” don’t we need a combined effort especially when the distinction as private schools in the Leeper case gave us the freedom to homeschool in the first place? Aren’t we going to need a combined effort to fight the type of folks trying to deport the German family (signed it long ago)/spewing “children don’t belong to parents/family…” propaganda?

    • Tim Lambert says

      Julie,

      What I mean by this is that traditional private schools have proven that they can not pass legislation to defend themselves or expand their freedom on their own. It was only with home schoolers help last session that they were able to almost pass a private school UIL bill. Back in the 1980s they were all too willing to through home schoolers “under the bus” in an effort to negotiate a deal that was better for them. Much like the Texas pioneers we had to learn to defend ourselves and have become adept at it because we realize it is our freedom that is at stake. History has shown us that we can not depend on private schools to defend us.

  18. Amy Hood says

    Can you clarify for me…if this bill is passed so that homeschoolers can participate (in sports), does that mean the local school board will no longer have a say in it? i.e. Will the school board still be allowed to deny us this opportunity? I’ve heard that even now, a local school board can say yes/no (we do/don’t allow you to participate). So would this change mean they would no longer be able to stop us? Or would we still have a local “argument” on our hands?

    • Tim Lambert says

      Schools could no longer prevent a home schooler from participating. No longer be able to stop us.

  19. Ben Distefano says

    Mr. Lambert,
    I wanted to thank you for your ongoing support of this bill. This strikes near and dear to me as I was excluded from UIL activity throughout my high school years. As a talented high school baseball player I was told by many scouts that I could not be taken in the MLB draft because I was homeschooled. Despite this I was taken in the draft but my draft stock was hurt because of my status. Although I did “beat the system,” by becoming one of the first homeschoolers drafted, I do not wish the kind of struggle that I had to endure on others just because we want to be homeschooled. My concern is those homeschoolers, who like me take athletics very seriously, and the adversity that they encounter while perusing their goals. Being put behind the eight ball because our education goals are beyond the scope of a broken education system is down right un-American.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you,
    Ben Distefano- 37th round draft pick by the New York Mets and Angelina College Roadrunner