Legislation to offer homeschooled students access to University Interscholastic League (UIL) public school activities, including sports, was approved in the Texas House on Wednesday.
House Bill 547 by State Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), which is called the “Tim Tebow bill” after the professional athlete who took advantage of such an arrangement as a homeschooled student, came to the floor with support from both sides of the aisle. Frank was joined in authoring the bill by Republican State Reps. Dan Huberty (Walden) and Dustin Burrows (Lubbock), as well as Democrat State Reps. Harold Dutton (Houston) and Mary Gonzalez (El Paso).
If signed into law, the bill would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports if they demonstrate academic proficiency by taking one of four approved standardized tests and agree to the same rules as their public-school peers. These standards include “policies regarding registration, age eligibility, fees, insurance, transportation, physical condition, qualifications, responsibilities, event schedules, standards of behavior, and performance.”
On the House floor, however, the bill met some opposition.
Frank ensured fellow legislators the bill contained “guardrails for testing, grades, and rules.” Despite these assurances, State Rep. Ed Thompson (R–Pearland) proposed an amendment that would have required homeschool athletics participants to take the STAAR test, something homeschool students do not currently have to do.
While Thompson argued such a provision would put players on “an even playing field” due to the state’s requirement that athletes maintain passing grades in their classes, State Rep. Mike Schofield (R–Katy) said the amendment would do the opposite, as public school athletes are not required to pass the STAAR test in order to play. The amendment was voted down 48-93.
After much debate, the bill passed on a vote of 78 to 65.
The bill requires one more vote of approval by the House tomorrow before being sent to the Senate.
Companion legislation filed by State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–Frisco) has not passed the Senate.