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.