The Texas Senate Education Committee this week endorsed a bill that would allow home-schooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League events.
Sponsored by Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, Senate Bill 929 now moves to the full chamber for consideration.
Local home-school parents said they probably won’t urge their children to participate if the bill passes because they home-school to get away from state government oversight.
“It’s cracking the door open for more restrictions and more ways that the state, that the government, can control home schooling,” parent Sandi Ringer said. “I think that within the home-school community this year we have grown a lot. In Johnson County, there are so many opportunities for your home-schooler to get out there and associate or compete or whatever against other home-schoolers.”
A new sports association is under way, as is a home-school band, Ringer said. The county’s home-school community is also holding its first prom later this month and a graduation in May.
“These are things that a lot of time, home-school students are left out of,” Ringer said. “But not here.”
Johnson County Sports Association President and Football Coach Jimmy Stanford said that while the bill has some positives, he’s concerned about future tax hikes if home-school students participating in UIL activities are counted as part of a school district’s average daily attendance, as piggybacking bills suggest.
He said the sports association, which is part of Texas Christian Athletic League, is off to a great start. About 20 students participated in track and football sign-ups are beginning soon.
Cleburne ISD Head Football Coach Jeff Merket voiced concerns over the possible change, and said it would be difficult to hold home-schoolers to the same accountability standards as public school students.
“We want to keep the playing field level and fair for everyone,” he said. “ ... It seems like there’s a trend to move away from public education and that’s not quite what the UIL is about.”
Opponents of the bill say that allowing home-school students to participate in UIL sports and events makes the recruitment process unfair. However, the bill requires that students pay the same fees as public school students and show proof of their passing classes as eligibility requirements.
“What we want to avoid in all those situations is the recruiting,” Merket said.
Ringer said home-schoolers can still be recruited by college scouts, it’s just not as easy as if recruiters were seeing game competition on a regular basis.
Others, like Grandview ISD Athletic Director Casey Walraven, had concerns about school boundaries. Under UIL rules, a student can’t move to a certain district solely for participation in UIL events. Similarly, the bill forbids students who were in public school to participate in UIL activities during the same year they left public school.
“That’s a tough situation,” Walraven said. “It’s definitely not an easy issue that’s for sure. There’s a lot of things that have to be accounted for.”
According to the bill, home-schooled students will be required to adhere to the same policies, eligibility requirements, fees, insurance, transportation, schedules and standards of behavior as other students, among other things.
According to a bill amendment, the measure would expire after four years for either reauthorization or dismissal.
Sports Editor A.J. Crisp
contributed to this report.