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After several years of Austin not taking action on the Tim Tebow bill, they finally passed it. However, our local school districts have chosen to discriminate against taxpaying homeschool families by opting out of allowing these students to participate in academic and athletic UIL activities.

Reasons provided imply that homeschool instruction is inferior to what is offered in public schools. In fact, this new law requires an annual standardized test that rates the student as average or above average relative to their grade level in order to be eligible to participate, and every six-week progress reports to indicate that the student is maintaining good academic standing. If a parent wanted to game the system to protect a marginal student to play sports, they could maybe get by with this for the first year, but if the student got behind academically, they would continually be ineligible.

Our family decided to homeschool for a myriad of reasons, but the primary driver was our belief that we could provide a superior, customized education than what the public school options could provide, something our kids’ outcomes have validated. The primary downside to our approach was the limited opportunities for sports programs and academic competitions. If we lived in the Dallas area, I am sure there would be a lot more possibilities for these activities, but in our smaller community, alternative options are limited to meet these needs.

A national trend in recent months has centered around holding local schools and school boards accountable to the values of the community, versus the values of those operating the schools. Covid lockdowns and remote learning has changed some perspectives relative to exacting influence over the education of our kids. Choosing not to allow homeschool student UIL participation appears to be nothing more than leverage to maintain the status quo.

I wonder how a school district’s decision to not participate would hold up under an equal protection under the law constitutional challenge? But perhaps, the Texas Legislature should instead amend the law to either require school participation or allow all homeschool families to opt out of paying local school taxes for services they are being discriminated against from using.

Steve Hellmann is a Paris resident.

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