The Texas Senate passed a bill in April to allow home-schooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League sports.
Senate Bill 640, which passed by a vote of 23-8, would end a years-long ban on home-schooled students from playing with public school teammates. It still needed to pass the Texas House. After much debate, according to Legiscan (legiscan.com/TX/bill/SB640/2017), the legislature referred the bill to Public Education before a vote could be taken.
Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, filed the so-called Tim Tebow bill to allow home-school families to pay a fee to participate in University Interscholastic League events. It’s named after the former NFL and University of Florida quarterback who was home-schooled in Florida but competed with public-school teammates.
Home-school families speaking before the Senate education committee earlier were split on the bill, with some wanting expanded access to organized extracurricular activities and others fearing it could open the door to government regulations.
Supporters said sports participation is often a key part of community building for their children. But as their kids get older, options become more limited and they are often excluded as they age out of Little League and their peers move on to public-school teams.
Opponents of the bill, like Texas Girls Coaching Association Executive Director Sam Tipton, claim it will disrupt the UIL irreparably. He and the TGCA are not alone in objecting to perceived unfairness. The Texas High School Coaches Association has been sending out frequent legislative alerts exhorting members, media and all others to phone their representatives and implore them to vote down the measure.
THSCA Executive Director D. W. Rutledge explained, “There’s a lot of rules that the public school students have to go by. They’re scrutinized by several different people as far as their grades and eligibility are concerned. We’re just trying to keep it a level playing field for our public school students.”
Texas has about 350,000 children who are home-schooled, according to state estimates. Representatives from the Texas Home School Coalition who spoke at hearings on the bill noted that more than 5,000 of their families have signed a petition in support of it.
The bill previously failed in 2013 but was brought back in 2016.