A new voice jumped into the debate over the proposed Texas “Tebow” bill which would allow homeschool students to participate in public school sports and other competitive extracurricular activities — the head of the Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA). He opposed the legislation over social media.
On Saturday, Sam Tipton, TGCA executive director, posted his opposition to the equal access University Interscholastic League (UIL) bills moving through the Texas Legislature — S.B. 640 and H.B. 1323. Tipton suggested students educated at home would not be on a level playing field with their public school peers.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the aforementioned bills pay homage to Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled but played on the local high school football team. Lawmakers seek to grant homeschoolers access to public schools for UIL sanctioned sports and other competitive teams.
Bill supporters say homeschool families pay for these programs through their taxpayer dollars but their children cannot use them because they do not attend public school. Critics fear the legislation’s unintended consequences may mean regulation for homeschooler as dictated by the public education system.
On Facebook, Tipton asserted, “Home school students in UIL activities will determine their rules and regulations for participation while public school students will adhere to state law and local rules and school board policies.”
The Texas Girls Coaches Association is one of the largest associations of coaches, and the largest association for coaches of girls’ athletics in the United States, according to the group’s website. Although sanctioned by the UIL, the 7,000-member TGCA is not part of the league. Their leadership includes coaches and administrators from all levels of public education.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Tipton, who pointed to the language of the legislation. Essentially, the “Tebow” bills deny public schools, state agencies, or government authorities any supervision over homeschool students, their parent(s), and their curriculum.
He noted, “Homeschooled students would not have to meet the same requirements as a public school student.”
Tipton commented that under the state’s “No Pass No Play” qualifying standard, public school students must follow state curriculum and state guidelines to be eligible to participate in UIL activities.
“All public school students are required to take all state mandated tests. Public school students in UIL athletics are restricted to eight hour after school work-out time along with their class period per day during the school week,” he said, adding, “This does not meet the academic requirements of a public school student.”
Homeschooler sports participation would be voluntary under “Tebow” and these children would not have to take the public school mandated State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). However, “opting in” requires testing to “demonstrate grade-level proficiency” via a nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test, or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.
Although the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) reported homeschoolers scored 15-to-30 percent higher than their public school peers on standardized tests, the national Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) opposed such legislation, stating: “This bill validates the erroneous idea that nationally-normed standardized testing is the only legitimate way – or even a good way – to assess a student’s eligibility for sports.”
They recommended alternative assessments that more accurately gauge a student’s eligibility, underscoring that public schools require good attendance and good grades to participate in sports, but students can still score poorly on a standardized test.
Conversely, the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), the state’s longtime advocacy organization, highlighted that school districts have no authority over third-party standardized testing and homeschool parents should have the freedom to chose for their child if they want to take the tests and participate.
THSC also confirmed that 4-H and the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) are not affected by such a bill. THSC supports UIL equal access largely because 33 percent of rural homeschoolers experience limited sports team opportunities and find alternative programs too expensive.
Homeschoolers remain divided. A Ragnar Research Partners survey found 77 percent of responding 500 Texas homeschool parents enthusiastically support UIL equal access. Previously, Breitbart Texas spoke to homeschool parents and groups like No2Tebow, who expressed concerns over eroding liberties, especially if the legislation forces UIL rules to change, also affecting those homeschoolers who do not take part in public school sports.
Last week, S.B. 640, authored by Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano) passed 23-to-8 in the state’s upper chamber. The companion House Bill 1323, from homeschool dad and Representative James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), is scheduled for a public hearing Thursday. Texas introduced “Tebow” bills into the 2013 and 2015 legislatures, which fizzled.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.