TX Bill Would Let Homeschooled Into Public School Sports

USA

School choice is a hot topic in 2017.  First, incoming President Donald Trump named controversial mega-donor Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. The ultra-conservative Michigan billionaire is best known for her ardent support of school choice, which allows parents to receive public dollars to help send their children to schools of their choice, be they charter, private, or religious. Trump, DeVos, and several Republican governors want to implement school choice programs, consisting of vouchers, across the land. 

Voucher programs give parents taxpayer dollars to be used to cover tuition at private schools, even religious ones, immediately raising questions about the separation of church and state.  Other questions abound regarding academic rigor and accountability at private schools, which do not administer the same standardized tests as public schools. Finally, a constant fear is that school vouchers will lead to the de-funding of public schools, either through public school funds being diverted to pay for vouchers or through the loss of per-student funding as public schools lose kids to private competitors.

While school voucher bills have failed in most state legislatures where Republicans proposed them, including Texas, a new crop of legislation may be seen as a stepping stone to getting to those vouchers. In Texas, Senate Bill 640, known colloquially as a “Tim Tebow Bill,” would allow home-schooled students to play sports at public schools by expanding UIL (University Interscholastic League) eligibility to those students.

SB 640 would require home-school parents to pay a fee, but the language of the bill does not stipulate the size or grades of such a fee.

On social media, people are vocalizing both support and derision for the proposal. Proponents of the bill argue that it is good for public school sports teams by opening up wider talent pools, and also good for home-schoolers by giving students opportunities they cannot get at home. Few would argue with the second point, but critics worry that home-schooled students are less accountable under UIL no-pass, no-play rules.

If parents are teachers, are they likely to automatically sign that their students are passing all classes in order to maintain athletic eligibility? Some worry that sport-obsessed parents could take advantage of the Tim Tebow Bill to devote all their teenagers’ time to sports in hopes of parlaying public school team exposure into college scholarships- or even pro contracts. A student-athlete could be pulled out of school to train 24/7, while allegedly being “home-schooled,” and still play on his or her original public school team.

Although the above scenario may sound outlandish, the Internet is full of stories of parents’ seemingly-growing obsessions with winning athletic scholarships.

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