Home schoolers pay taxes supporting numerous UIL programs in their local area, including traditional sports (football, basketball, etc.), chess, music, wrestling, robotics, and more, but are prohibited from using those programs.
At THSC, we believe that parents, not the government, should decide on the educational and developmental activities in which their children participate. Accordingly, we’ve worked to pass the UIL reforms measure, widely known as the Tim Tebow bill, in the 2013 and 2015 Texas State Legislative Sessions. While it is not law yet, the bill passed the Texas Senate in 2013 and 2015, gaining nearly unanimous support in the Senate in 2015.
THSC and the home school community successfully fought against discrimination from participation in dual credit classes, PSAT testing, parent taught driver’s education, equal access in college admission, and the basic right to home school under the Leeper decision in 1994. THSC has never been afraid to stand up for the equal rights of all Texas home schoolers, and we intend to continue fighting for home school freedoms through our work on UIL reform with the Tim Tebow bill in 2017.
The 34 states listed below already allow home school students to participate in their versions of UIL.
- Thousands of home schooling parents pay property taxes that fund public school activities and facilities, but their home schooled children aren’t allowed to use them.
- UIL was created in 1913 for all Texas students. In 1915, eligibility was restricted to white, public school students. According to testimony in the Leeper v. Arlington ISD case, at the time of the restriction, 80 percent of the students in Texas were home schooled. While minority students were finally allowed to participate in UIL beginning in 1967, home school students are still excluded.
- There are an estimated 320,000 home school students in Texas. Based on Governing magazine’s estimates that educating a single student costs $8,299 annually, home schoolers save the state approximately $2.7 billion each year.
- Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was a home school student in the state of Florida, where he was able to play on his local public school’s football team. He went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history.
- Collin Klein, a football player and 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist, was also a home school student who played football on his public school team in Colorado.
- Thirty-four states already allow home school students to participate in UIL activities.
House Bill 1323 by State Representative James Frank
What this bill accomplishes:
- The bill uses the same definition of a home school student that has already been defined in the Texas Education Code since 2007: a student who predominantly receives instruction in a general elementary or secondary education program that is provided by the parent, or a person standing in parental authority, in or through the child’s home.
- The home school students who are accepted will participate at the school just like the students who attend that school.
- Home school students who participate in UIL programs are subject to the same requirements as the public school students who are also in the same program (such as practice schedules, age, and performance).
- The student’s parent is responsible for the academic oversight of their student’s participation in UIL programs.
- During the first six weeks of a school year, students gain eligibility by submitting a passing score (average or above) on any nationally normed standardized assessment test of the parent’s choice (such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test, the California Achievement Test, or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills). These scores can be submitted from a third party rather than be taken at the school and are submitted once every two school years.
- After the first six weeks of the school year, the child’s parent will periodically (in accordance with the school’s grading calendar) provide written verification that the child is passing all of their classes.
- Home school students may not participate in UIL Programs during the remainder of a school year in which they have been enrolled in public school.
- The UIL may not disallow home school students from participating in UIL programs which they are eligible for and for which they have qualified.
- These new policies may not be misconstrued to allow state agencies, governmental bodies, or school districts to regulate or oversee home schools.
- The school may not require changes to a home school’s curriculum or home school methods in order for students to be eligible for UIL programs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Will programs like this draw the government’s attention to home schoolers and encourage regulation?
Actually, history has shown just the opposite to be true. The lack of regulation isn’t due to a lack of interaction home schoolers have with the government. Rather, Texas home schooling freedoms are due to our eternal vigilance. Watch the history of home schooling in Texas.
Does THSC only support one side of this issue?
Currently, parents who wish to keep their children from participating in UIL have the right to do so. The families who wish to participate, on the other hand, are prohibited by the discriminatory rules of UIL. By passing this law, both sides would be able to exercise their rights.
Isn’t the foundational idea of home schooling to raise children away from the harmful influences found at public schools?
From a public policy standpoint, we believe that parents should have the right to decide whether their children should try out for a public school team or not. We believe that home schooled families should have the same rights as public school families. Those who have a personal conviction against their children spending time with students who share different values would not be affected by the Tebow bill. The Tebow bill merely gives home schoolers a choice.
Why would any home schooler want their children to play on public school teams?
A gifted student who does not have the option of competing in the public school league loses potential for recognition from recruiters, who rarely search for talent outside of the UIL. As a result, these children never see many of the opportunities, such as college scholarships, that would have been extended to them had they simply been allowed to play in a public school program.
Why are we distinguishing home schools from private schools?
Distinguishing between a home school and a private school is sometimes necessary for policy reasons. Private schools and home schools have many differences. In 2011, the Texas Legislature attempted to regulate private schools by introducing HB 2535, which would have mandated that students wear reflective clothing when playing sports at night. The bill was trying to regulate students of both private and public schools. The author included a section that said “home-schools” were not included in the bill and therefore were not to be regulated by it. Refusing to differentiate between home schools and private schools would bring regulations that no parent would want for their child.
Will the fact that the Tebow bill differentiates between home schools and private schools undermine the Leeper decision?
The simple answer to this is no, it will not. Shelby Sharpe, the attorney who represented home schoolers in the Leeper case, said the following about the Tebow bill, “The Leeper opinion did not define a home school as a private school. The court interpreted the language in the code of a private school to include a home school. The Tebow bill will NOT weaken the Leeper decision.” The Tim Tebow bill references a definition of “home school” that was written into Chapter 29.916 of the Texas Education Code six years ago. Texas law already distinguishes between home schools and traditional private schools in at least 10 separate locations and has done so for many years. No increased regulations have arisen as a result. If the Tim Tebow bill passes, the only way the state could regulate home schooling would be to pass a law through both houses and have it signed by the governor. The Tim Tebow bill in no way opens up new avenues for regulation. We already fight regulation on this front every legislative session, and this dynamic will not be altered by the passage of the Tim Tebow bill.
Does the Tim Tebow bill’s testing requirement undermine parental authority?
Subsection D of the Tim Tebow bill explicitly outlines that the parent retains ultimate authority and oversight of all academic standards relating to participation in UIL activities. The bill also directly states that a school district is required to accept test scores reported from a third party, which means that not only does the parent have the authority to determine if a child will take a test, but the parent also chooses which test the child will take and where he or she will take it.
Many other states allow home schoolers to participate in UIL activities, and those states have high home school regulation. Will this happen in Texas?
Thirty-four other states, both high- and low-regulation, already allow home school students to participate in public school interscholastic activities. None of those 34 states have seen increased regulation as a result of their Tim Tebow laws.
Aren’t there already plenty of extracurricular opportunities available to home school students?
Home school students who live in rural areas of Texas do not have the same opportunities as students who live in metropolitan areas. Many of them must drive for hours to reach the nearest sports, music, or drama program available to them. Home schoolers who live in metropolitan areas frequently cannot afford the extracurricular options available through home school programs. Additionally, home school students do not have the option of playing in the private school league (TAPPS).
Will this bill hurt home school athletic leagues/associations?
Evidence from states that have implemented Tebow laws leads us to believe that this legislation will have a very minimal impact on home school athletic teams. Additionally, since the purpose of the programs are to benefit the students, THSC believes that the students should have the ability to choose those programs which are best for them.
Will this law result in recruiting?
There is no reason to believe that this legislation will cause recruiting. The bill is worded so that only home school students who live in a particular school district and were already qualified to attend the school in question will be able to participate in extracurricular activities ofthat school district. If students leave public school to home school, they will be ineligible to play in UIL activities for the remainder of that school year. There will be no unique effects on the issue of recruiting caused by the presence of home schoolers in UIL activities.
Are the school districts liable for injuries to home school students?
Currently in the state of Texas, school districts are not liable for injuries sustained during extracurricular activities. Each school district requires parents to sign a waiver before allowing public school students to participate in these activities. The same liability rules would apply to home schoolers since home school students would compete on the same basis as public school students.
How do we verify that students are being taught at home?
The state of Texas acknowledges the parents of a home schooled student are solely responsible for their child’s education and considers the child accountable exclusively to the parent for the quality of his or her education. The state of Texas does not require any annual or regular assessments of the child’s academic progress. The bill implements standards as close as possible to the same verification standard required of other, public school participants. Public school students must receive passing grades in each class from their teacher. For home schoolers, the parent will verify that the student has passing grades. Public school students also have to pass regular standardized tests demonstrating grade advancement to be eligible. For home schoolers, the student would submit a passing grade from the nationally normed standardized test of his or her choice. Questions about the quality of home school education are often laid to rest with the knowledge that national studies have repeatedly demonstrated that home school students score in the 80th percentile on national tests. In comparison, their public school counterparts score at the 50th percentile mark.
Will public and home school students have to meet the same immunization requirements?
The bill is currently written to require home school students to meet the same requirements as public school students in categories including physical condition, qualifications, and responsibilities. Home school students who choose to participate in UIL activities will, under these restrictions, be required to meet the same immunization standards as public school students.
Will passing the Tim Tebow bill change the rules for how home schoolers may participate in 4H and TMEA?
No. Both 4H and TMEA are private, non-profit organizations that develop and follow their own guidelines for student participation. Changings in UIL rules made by legislation do not have authority over the rules adopted by 4H or TMEA. Both organizations have confirmed to THSC that they operate independently from UIL and are not affected by the bill.
The director of 4H, in particular, stated that they are aware of the bill and that they do not expect any changes to be made as a result of the legislation:
We are aware of the legislation and will continue to do everything we can to provide opportunities for all students to be active in 4-H. 4-H is a separate entity from UIL and unlike UIL, 4-H is available to all students public, private and homeschool. We do not anticipate any rule changes based on this legislation.
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Links to More Information
Audio of 4-8-2013 Town Hall Meeting with Tim Lambert
Language for Proposed Tim Tebow Bill
Blog Post: Tim Tebow Bill – Addressing Concerns
Blog Post: Tebow Effects
Blog Post: Why Tim Tebow is Great for Texas Home Schoolers: Addressing Concerns with Evidence
Ten Facts About the Tim Tebow Bill
The Do’s and Don’ts of the Tim Tebow Bill
Blog Post: Disagreements over Tim Tebow? Discussions with Conflicting Opinions
Blog Post: The Facts about Tim Tebow and Testing
Blog Post: 4-H and UIL: Will the rules be the same after Tebow?
PRESS RELEASE: Tebow Bill Passes Out of Texas Senate
Five Reasons Tebow is Good for Public Schools