I was incredibly excited the Texas House passed HB 547 this week, the bill I authored that is sometimes known as the "Tim Tebow" bill. I believe this bill has the opportunity to impact many of the hundreds of thousands of homeschoolers in Texas, along with any of the public school districts that are willing to give Texas children additional opportunities for personal development and growth that has been a long time coming.
Under current law, home schooled students are prohibited from participating in UIL activities as part of their local school's team or organization. HB 547 would change that-by giving local school boards the option of allowing homeschool students who want to take it the opportunity to participate in those activities.
I am proud of the extracurricular programs that we offer in our public schools-programs like theater, bands, debate, and athletics. We have teachers and coaches who love the students they get to instruct and support and want to see more kids come into their programs. I am also proud of the job that many families like mine do to educate their children at home. There are thousands of children in our state who are having their educational needs met through homeschool, but are unable to access extracurricular opportunities either because their parents cannot afford them or because they are simply unavailable where they live. HB 547 connects those kids with programs, other students, and coaches and teachers who want to help them grow and succeed.
After working on this bill for the last 8 years, I think I have heard every complaint, real or imagined, about this policy idea. First, allow me to explain what the bill does:
* Gives school districts the choice to allow homeschool participation in UIL activities for residents of their districts;
* Gives homeschool families the choice to participate in UIL activities in districts that allow it;
* The bill specifically requires that students have to:
1) meet UIL age and eligibility requirements;
2) meet equivalent (not identical) academic proficiency standards in line with "no pass/no play" requirements; and
3) comply with the same policies for participation in those activities as public school students.
The bill does not:
* Require anything of homeschool students or homeschool families who do not want to participate in UIL activities;
* Require school districts to offer UIL extracurricular opportunities to the homeschool families in their communities if they choose not to;
* Regulate homeschool curriculum or in any way regulate homeschool education in the state of Texas.
HB 547 is, fundamentally, about Texas kids and giving additional opportunities to kids who would like to participate in UIL activities--for skill development, team participation, competition, or any of the other myriad things we appreciate about extracurricular activities-but are prohibited from doing so currently. Thirty-five other states have managed to do this--so can Texas.
Note: While this bill has often been referred to as the Tim Tebow bill, I think it's better called the Tim Tuba bill as it will likely help more students with non-athletic opportunities than with sports.
a link to a Dallas Morning News story from earlier which does a good job of summarizing the larger discussion around the bill.