By LIBBY CLUETT
AUSTIN – Some bills facing the Texas Legislature, including Dan Patrick’s Senate Bill 929, would amend current law to allow home-schooled students access to University Interscholastic League sponsored activities. This isn’t the only proposed legislation aimed at the UIL.
The league was created in 1913 to allow for students to participate in UIL-sponsored activities, including sports, arts and academics, largely for public schools, although some private schools have been admitted.
The UIL opened its doors beyond public schools by allowing two private schools to compete a decade ago, with seemingly no problems. At the time, public school officials and a representative of the Texas High School Coaches Association argued that private schools would have an unfair advantage, since they are able to “recruit” students beyond a geographic boundary.
Mineral Wells ISD Athletic Director Chuck Lawrence said he does not like the idea of letting private schools compete in any UIL athletics or activities.
“I am totally against it,” Lawrence said.
“Private schools do not play by the same rules as the public schools, and it is impossible to have a level playing field if they can recruit and hand pick their students,” he added. “In no way could you ever level the playing field by allowing private schools to compete with UIL schools.”
Currently students are eligible to compete in UIL sports and academics if they:
• Haven’t graduated from high school.
• Are full-time day students.
• Have attended classes since the sixth day of class of the present school year, or have been enrolled and in regular attendance for 15 or more calendar days before the contest.
• Are eligible under No-pass, No play.
• Have the required number of credits for eligibility.
• Are enrolled in a four-year program of high school courses.
• Initially enrolled in the ninth grade not more than four years ago, or in the 10th grade not more than three years ago (students may apply for waivers).
• Did not change schools for the purpose of participating in a UIL academic event.
• Are not in violation of the awards rule.
Superintendents also share many concerns about the proposed legislation to make home- and private- school students eligible for UIL activities. What seems to stand out for local superintendents is the question posed by Perrin-Whitt Consolidated ISD Supt. John Kuhn: “How would No Pass, No Play work for these students?”
The No-Pass, No-Play rule, passed by the Texas Legislature in 1984, requires public school students to pass all courses in each grading period to be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. If a student fails to make a passing grade, that student cannot participate in any extracurricular activity until her or his grades reach passing levels.
“I am always concerned when home school students or private schools want to compete in UIL academics or sports,” said Mineral Wells ISD Supt. Gail Haterius. “There are some private schools already competing in UIL. In public schools we educate all students and all students have to meet the accountability rules. In sports we particularly abide by the ‘No Pass, No Play’ rule that holds students accountable for passing their academic studies.”
Kuhn said there are other considerations regarding SB 929, such as:
• “Would they be required to participate in the school district in whose boundaries they reside?”
• “Who would bear the costs of equipping home-school athletes, given that the school district would (I assume) not earn daily attendance funding for those students, since they are not in attendance?”
• “Would the school district’s insurance cover these students in the event of an accident during extracurricular travel?”
“There are all kinds of rules and best practices that are handed down by UIL and that public schools must follow to be in UIL,” Haterius noted. “We have Previous Athletic Participation (PAP) forms that students and parents have to fill out as each school has an attendance zone.
“Private schools and home schools have no attendance zone and can recruit students from any area for athletic purposes,” Haterius said, reiterating Lawrence’s concerns. “All the select sports teams we have nowadays could just sign up for a private school and have an unfair advantage.
“If coaches, parents, or athletes break the rules in public school UIL, then there are consequences ranging from the forfeiture of a game, being banned from events, being unable to play for a certain amount of time, public reprimand, etc.,” Haterius said, adding, “In public schools, usually there is another job position such as teaching tied to the coaching part of the job.”
“I personally feel that public schools are a great asset for our communities and the more kids who can be served by these institutions, in whatever capacity, the better off we all are,” Kuhn said.
“We are about kids, and students who choose to pursue education in the home are an important part of the fabric of our communities and an important part of our shared future as a free society.”
Kuhn added, “We in the public schools would be wise, I think, to open our doors to anyone who wishes to be a part of the services we offer.
These are just my personal opinions. That said, any law allowing home school participation in UIL events would have to be carefully crafted to protect fairness and the integrity of competition.”
Two bills introduced in the Texas House by Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr., of Houston, HB 1643 and HB 1374, also pertain to equal access by private and parochial school students to certain UIL-sponsored activities.
HB1374 relates to assessing fees for home-schooled students residing in a public school’s attendance area who want to participate in UIL activities along with students enrolled in the public school. This bill comes with a Legislative Budget Board fiscal note that states, “School districts would experience costs for uniforms, equipment, travel and other costs related to the participation of students in UIL activities. While districts have the authority to charge students for many of these costs, districts that do not charge all of their students for participation would not be authorized to adopt a policy that established fees for home-schooled children only.”
HB 1643 would provide private and parochial schools “equal opportunity to become members of the league for the purpose of providing their students with access to league activities other than football or basketball.”
Haterius said there are other bills directed at the UIL, including:
HB 68 – a bill filed by Rep. Eddie Lucio III that would require cognitive testing as a precaution to concussion.
HB 887 – also filed by Lucio, this would limit high-school and middle-school football programs to one full-contact practice per week.
HB 1319 – by Rep. Sylvester Turner, which would require cardiac exams and electrocardiograms before a student can participate in practice for an athletic activity and another EKG in the student’s third year of participation. Haterius said the UIL medical advisory board is already ahead on this issue, but there are implementation problems.
HB 1411 – by Rep. Gene Wu, Houston, which addresses location selection and rotating venues for UIL statewide competitions in extracurricular academic or musical activities.
HB 1675 – by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, Angleton, proposes conducting a Sunset review of the UIL.
HB 1775 – by Rep. Ed Thompson, Austin, which proposes action to remove the UIL from any oversight of officials with other requirements as well.
HB 2594 – by Rep. Mark Strama, Austin, which would prohibit the UIL from adopting or enforcing any rule that penalizes a student competitor who participates in one or more academic or fine arts competitions that take place on a Sunday, if their ISD has adopted a policy permitting their high school to sponsor participants in Sunday competitions.
Haterius said other UIL-related bills are HB 3374, HB 3428, HB 3476, HB 3723, SB 573 and SB 929.