The UIL Equal Access Bill in Texas (aka the Tim Tebow bill), would give homeschoolers access to University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities (band, orchestra, speech, sports, etc) through the local school.
Some people may be surprised to know that the concept of allowing homeschool student access to extracurricular activities isn’t a new idea at all: in fact, 35 other states have already done so.
These laws go back as far as the 1970s, when New Hampshire homeschool students were allowed to participate in public school extracurricular activities. Should Texas become state 36? The Texas homeschool community thinks so.
A review of the 35 states who allow participation helps put to rest concerns that this freedom will lead to homeschool regulation increasing.
Out of these 35 states, none have ever seen a regulation increase on homeschoolers as a result of allowing homeschoolers equal access to extracurricular activities. These 35 states span the regulatory spectrum, including both high regulation states and low regulation states. In fact, seven of the 35 states are low-regulation states similar to Texas.
Several states have actually seen a regulation decrease after allowing homeschoolers equal access to public school activities. A few examples include Idaho, Iowa, Maine, and South Dakota.
- Idaho: Equal access has been allowed since 1995. In 2009, Idaho revised its existing compulsory attendance laws, the code previously stated that “parents or guardians must cause their school-age children to be instructed in the subjects commonly taught in the public schools.” The code was revised to say “To accomplish this, a parent or guardian shall either cause the child to be privately instructed by, or at the direction of, his parent or guardian,” giving parents more control.
- Iowa: Equal access has been allowed since 1997. Later, in 2013, Iowa changed from one of the highest regulation states to one of the lowest regulation states in the country by striking requirements for registration with the state, student portfolio review by a licensed teacher, immunization reporting, and a minimum number of instructional days.
- South Dakota: Equal access has been allowed since 1993. In 1996, the South Dakota loosened its testing requirements on homeschool students.
- Maine: Equal access has been allowed since 1995. In 2003, Maine removed the authority of State Department of Education to develop approval criteria for home families, significantly reducing the state’s control
- North Dakota: Equal access has been allowed in North Dakota for a number of years. In 2017 North Dakota eased it’s standardized testing requirements allowing all parents to opt-out of standardized testing.
- Pennsylvania: Equal Access has been allowed in Pennsylvania since 2006, and in 2013 the state abolished the requirement for parents to submit a portfolio of their student’s work to the superintendent.
- Arkansas: Equal access has been allowed on Arkansas since 2013, and in 2015 the Arkansas legislature removed the year-end testing requirements for homeschoolers.
High regulation states such as Pennsylvania were high regulation long before they allowed homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities. Despite that predisposition, Pennsylvania and other high regulation states have also seen no regulation increases as a result of giving equal access.
In fact, as mentioned above, equal access dates back nearly 50 years in some states but not a single state has ever experienced a regulation increase as a result of allowing homeschoolers equal access to extracurricular activities.
The exact rules for participation vary by state, but one other notable takeaway is that the best method of equal access is one that clearly outlines eligibility requirements, rather than leaving the requirements up to the whims of the local school or state education agency. It is much better to have clear rules that can be clearly enforced than trying to convince local or statewide bureaucrats to adopt rules that are fair, which is an unnecessary difficulty undertaken by some states like Alabama.
Homeschoolers and legislators across Texas and even the country have made it clear they believe homeschoolers should be able to participate in the extracurricular activities, which are paid for with their tax dollars. Currently, many homeschool families lack affordable options or sometimes any options at all (if they live in rural areas).
Giving homeschoolers equal access to UIL activities has been tested with great success in 35 other states. It is time Texas becomes state number 36.
We believe raising children is a family’s God-given right and calling. Sign the Tim Tebow Bill Petition, and thank you for your help in Keeping Texas Families Free!