HB 391 and Texas Exceptionalism

By Kristen Ring 

You’ve seen the public and social media push by Tim Tebow for state public education to include homeschoolers in their UIL (University Interscholastic League) activities. The THSC has lobbied for this “inclusiveness” for the homeschoolers of Texas, via HB 391, however what has been excluded thus far is honest debate.
Although the argument has been made by THSC and HSLDA that within the states that have adopted such amendments to their educational codes that no “laws were made more burdensome” for homeschoolers, this however is an invalid argument for us in Texas (Woodruff, 2013). This argument would be valid in a state such as Florida (the one Tebow himself was schooled in), New York, or Wisconsin where “burdens” on homeschooling families already exist, such as testing, curriculum approval, and district notification. Texas is exceptional to all other states in that we have no “burdens” to register with the local district, maintain record requirements, students subjected to any testing, or the requiring of curriculum approvals. Therefore, if even one requirement is added by the proposed HB 391, our “burdens” have now increased by 100%.
What does the proposed HB 391 currently state? This bill will amend Sec. 1 Subchapter D, chapter 33 of the Education Code, and will add the following: (link here)
1. That all schools that participate in UIL activities will “provide a homeschooled student who resides in the school’s attendance area with the opportunity to participate in the activity on behalf of the school in the same manner that the school provides the opportunity to participate to students enrolled in the school” Note: “Opportunity” simply means that the homeschooled student will have the ability to “try-out”, there is NO guarantee that they will be on any team, and one must consider the biases of the coaches who will accept the students enrolled in the school before considering “giving” a place to a non-enrolled student. It stands to reason that the accepted non-enrolled student will have to be exceptional in order to achieve placement.
2. Any homeschooled student “who seeks to participate” or “who participates” in a UIL activity “is subject to the relevant policies that apply to students enrolled in the school, including policies regarding registration, age eligibility,…qualifications…,and performance”. Note: The UIL eligibility requirements are linked to the TEA-UIL Side by Side, and consist of course requirements, grades, testing, and curriculum compliances. (TEA-UIL link)
3. The primary educator of the homeschooled student is required to submit “written verification to the school indicating” grades in “each course” and that the student is “maintaining satisfactory progress towards academic advancement or promotion”. Note: The THSC stated in their article “Why Tim Tebow is Great for Texas home Schoolers: Addressing Concerns with Evidence”, as an attempt to quell the apprehension of HB 391 imposing standardized or academic testing, that “THSC has worked closely with UIL  to craft language to the bill that would mirror…the applicable requirements for public school eligibility” and that “public school students are required to pass standardized testing…to determine their UIL eligibility for the first six weeks of competition”, therefore, “home schooled students would take a national standardized test to determine eligibility” as a means to “avoid the appearance of favoritism” (Sommers, 2014).  THSC goes on to rationalize this testing further by stating “if homeschool students want to apply for a state university, they often are required to take a standardized test” and “public school students are required to pass standardized testing…to determine their UIL eligibility” (Sommers, 2014).  
The HB 391 has not been to committee yet, and as with all bills that enter committee once they exit they have undergone many changes and amendments. It is irrational to accept that as the bill stands, with a simple written statement by the primary educator that grades are passing or that courses are in compliance with TEA-UIL policies, it will exit committee without mandatory standardized testing, academic testing per 6 weeks, curriculum approvals and promotional testing for home schooled students.
Texas homeschoolers stand to incur a minimum of a 500% increase in regulations if this bill passes. This is a very high price to pay for the “opportunity” of a very minute group of homeschooled students whom may desire to attend activities in public schools.
The THSC also argues that home schooling families pay property taxes and therefore should have the ability to participate in public school activities. This, again, is not a valid argument. Private school families also pay property taxes (although THEY are not included in the bill!), and like home educating families they have decided not to use the public school system. Home educating, like choosing private education, is not merely choosing to educate our children towards something (a more effective, customized education) it is a choice to educate from something (the negative atmosphere, “cookie-cutter” style education, minimal academic opportunities, rejection of individualism, political and world view incompatibilities, etc…). If a home educated student desires to participate in a sport that is not available in the homeschool sports programs, local leagues, or simply undesired by the student to participate in those choices, private schools accept homeschooled students to participate on their teams. Point being, home educated students already have choices, in fact many more choices that public schooled students, and therefore the necessity of this bill is null.
Please take the time to contact your State Representative, whether for or against HB 391. Please consider contacting THSC also, whether for or against, and lets engage in an honest debate, because this affects all families, homeschooling, private and public!
Sommers, Isaac (2014). Why tim tebow is great for texas home schoolers: addressing concerns with evidence. Texas home school coalition. Retrieved from:
Woodruff, Scott (2013). Bill would open public school sports to homeschoolers- the big 12. Homeschool legal defense association. Retrieved from:
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