On Jan. 27, Senator Van Taylor and Representative James Frank filed SB 640 and HB 1323, commonly referred to as the Tim Tebow bill. The bill would grant home-school students the ability to participate in University Interscholastic League, UIL, extracurricular activities.
“Extracurricular activities provide tremendous experience for children to grow and teach important life skills. I believe that every child should be offered this opportunity. Home school families do an incredible job teaching their children, they pay taxes that fund these programs, and should have the same claim to participate in sports and extracurricular activities," Senator Taylor said.
In 1913, the Texas Legislature established the UIL with the stated purpose of enhancing the educational experience of all Texas students through extracurricular activities in order to equip them for good citizenship. Originally, the UIL constitution opened UIL activities to all public and private school students, including home-school students.
The Tim Tebow bill would allow home-school student participation.
There are about 350,000 students in the state of Texas who are home-schooled.
Similar legislation passed in Florida in 1996, allowed Tim Tebow to play football at Allen D. Nease High School, where he was named a high school All-American. Tebow later went on to play quarterback for University of Florida where he won two National Championships and was awarded the Heisman trophy. He was later selected in the first round of the NFL draft and played for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
SB 640 and HB 1323 clarify and instruct that while home school students may participate in UIL activities, this authorization does not grant the state, school districts, or other governmental organizations additional authority over home school students or parents beyond that required for participation in a League activity.
Senator Taylor authored a version of this bill back in the 2015 legislative session. It passed out of the Senate by a vote of 26-5. But it did not receive a hearing in the House.
"This is something we've been working on for the home school community for many years. This is an opt-in situation, so if folks don't want to participate in this then it doesn't apply," Texas Homeschool Coalition President, Tim Lambert said.
Lambert feels the bill is reasonable because home school families still pay taxes to school districts they don't attend, and parents agree.
"I would love to have access to UIL sports for them. And currently I pay taxes in two counties, so and yet we don't have access to that. However, when it comes to the Tim Tebow bill, I think it needs more work," homeschool teacher JoAnne Alesick said.
Many homeschool parents and teachers are hesitant to welcome standardized testing into their studies.
One of the conditions of eligibility to participate in UIL activities requires homeschool students to demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency on any nationally recognized test during the first six weeks of a school year.
"I feel like it should be you know they should take my word for it. If they trust me to homeschool my kids, which obviously they do because Texas is not a mandated state, then they should trust my word that I'm not going to want them out their playing sports if they aren't trying at home," Alesick added.
At the end of the day, if the Tim Tebow bill is to be passed, Alesick said she would try and fight the testing, but...
"I think that my children would come first in that regard, and I would definitely want them to have as many opportunities as I can give them," Alesick said.
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