UIL for Homeschoolers,
More Bills, 
A Big Little Announcement 

May 14, 2021

This week felt a lot like cramming for finals in college due to the midnight on Thursday deadline for House Bills to be passed to the Senate (or be unceremoniously killed until the next legislative session). To help get as many HBs passed to the Senate as possible, we were on the floor until 1:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m., and 12:00 midnight this week. The bad news is that I could handle sleep deprivation much better in college than now. 

Fortunately, we were able to get three more of our bills across the finish line just in the nick of time. First, it's been a long time coming, but we finally passed HB 547 -- our bill giving school districts the option to allow interested homeschooled students to participate in UIL activities. There's been some spirited discussion around this bill, so we've provided a more in-depth explanation below, in the body of the newsletter. I really believe this bill will greatly benefit any school district that wants to impact more kids, and it will obviously tremendously help any homeschooler who chooses to participate in band, sports, or academic competition. 

The House also approved two of our other bills, HB 3720 and HB 3691. We've talked about each of these bills before, but as a reminder:
  • HB 3720 seeks to improve the interest list process for Medicaid waiver programs. These waivers allow the state to use Medicaid funds for services like long-term care outside of an institution setting. Unfortunately, there's a long wait list to receive these services. This bill would require HHSC to collect additional information from applicants in order to increase efficiency in the waitlist process, with the goal of taking another important step towards eliminating the wait lists altogether.
  • HB 3691 makes several changes recommended by a Texas Tech study to improve implementation of the community-based foster care model that the legislature created in 2017. In particular, this bill makes it clear that the goal of community-based care is to strengthen and preserve families, thus preventing children from being unnecessarily placed into foster care. HB 3691 also calls for a clear focus on child welfare outcomes when evaluating how our community-based care providers are doing, rather than measuring inputs to the system.
This week also saw passage of a few high profile bills that we wanted to make you aware of. 
  • HB 3 is the omnibus pandemic response bill, which focuses on clarifying which powers are afforded to the state in the event of a pandemic. This bill creates a unified, cohesive response system to pandemics, while also ensuring that the rights and liberties of individuals are not taken away. 
  • SJR 27 is an amendment to the Texas Constitution prohibiting the state from placing restrictions or limitations on religious services. The Legislature wanted to ensure that the fundamental right to worship is protected from government overreach in the future.  
Finally, I am overjoyed to announce that Alisha and I are now grandparents. Jerod and Kiersten had their first daughter, Sienna Catherine Frank, on Thursday, and we could not be more excited. In the midst of this busy and, at times, overwhelming legislative session, this is the perfect reminder that what is happening outside the Capitol walls is often far more important than any bill or hearing could ever be. While I'm grateful for the chance to be your Representative, I'm even more grateful to be a husband, father, and now grandfather (aka Pops). 

May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank Signature
Representative James B. Frank 

Equal UIL Access

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.

Here's a link to a Dallas Morning News story from earlier which does a good job of summarizing the larger discussion around the bill.

End of Session Timeline

We've put together this flowchart as a handy reminder of the important deadlines. As you can see, we are quickly approaching the final days of session. 

Photos of the Week

Laying out HB 547 - I got a little emotional recounting my own family's experience

Grateful for my colleagues who stood with me to support 547

Bill Tracker

COVID-19 Protocols at the Capitol

If you are planning to visit the Capitol during this last month of session, I encourage you to contact my Austin office (512-463-0534) to get the latest updates on health and safety protocols before making the trip down.  The rules are constantly changing but are gradually heading toward normalcy once again. 

You may find the following information useful as your plan your visit:
  • My office is always open to constituents. 
  • The House Gallery will be open to the public at reduced capacity.
  • Committee hearings will be open to the public both in-person and virtually. 
  • There are no public tours, groups, or sponsored event spaces.
  • All visitors must enter the Capitol through the north door.
  • COVID-19 rapid testing is available prior to entering the Capitol (located outside, north of the building).
Note:  Please forward this email to individuals interested in receiving updates from Representative James Frank.  If you, or someone you know, would like to receive these updates, please email votejamesfrank@gmail.com  
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