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January 10, 2003

House Bill 214: Allows Homeschoolers Participation In Public School Activities

Author:
Representative Brian McCall.

Summary:
This bill allows homeschool participation in certain public school services and activities.

Status:
The Committee on Public Education held a public hearing on April 8, 2003. The Committee vote is currently pending.

Action Requested:
Please call as many members of the committee as possible and give them the following message in your own words.

"Please vote against the homeschool participation bill, H.B. 214. This bill wrongly identifies private school students who are pursuing an education at home as 'homeschoolers.' The Texas Supreme Court, after years of litigation, recognized our freedom to operate as a private school and we do not want to endanger our private school status. This bill will burden school districts by adding to class volume and will have a negative fiscal impact."

Committee on Public Education
Chair: Rep. Kent Grusendorf, (512) 463 0624
Vice Chair: Rep. Rene Oliveira, (512) 463 0640
Rep. Dan Branch, (512) 463 0367
Rep. Glenda Dawson, (512) 463 0707
Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr., (512) 463 0510
Rep. Rob Eissler, (512) 463 0797
Rep. Bob E. Griggs, (512) 463 0599
Rep. Scott Hochberg, (512) 463 0492
Rep. Jerry Madden, (512) 463 0544

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA takes a neutral position on public school participation but opposes the creation of the educational category "home-school students."

Background:
There are currently two homeschool participation bills in the Texas Legislature: H.B. 214 and its sister bill S.B. 412. These bills provide that a homeschool student may enroll in public school in the district as a part time student. The bills allow the school to give homeschool students access to laboratory facilities. A school district may permit a homeschooled student entitled under Section 25.001 to attend public school in the district to participate in an online course. A school district may furnish textbooks without cost to a homeschooled student. A school district may permit a homeschooled student to participate in a district sponsored extracurricular activity.

While HSLDA generally takes a neutral stance on equal access to public school programs, we are concerned with the wording of these two bills. If enacted they would create a new category of education under the Texas compulsory attendance code.

Up until this time, homeschoolers have clearly been considered "private schools." This right to be a "private school" was earned through years of hard fought litigation culminating in the Leeper decision by the Texas Supreme Court. We have personally handled scores of cases fighting for homeschool freedom.

By creating a bill allowing for a new category of students, "homeschool students," we are setting ourselves up for a fall. This "home school" language, added to bills involving compulsory attendance age students, gives future legislatures the excuse to regulate us. This will also cause confusion in the courts and may separate us from the precedent in Leeper.

The homeschool organizations in other states where homeschools are recognized as "private schools" are of one mind on this issue as well. They routinely oppose all attempts to add the term "home school' into their education codes.

We must add that Representative McCall's intent is good. He only wants to help homeschoolers. However, Tom Sanders our Texas Legislative Counsel, has visited his office and explained this danger but Representative McCall has chosen not to change his position.

To amend the language and remove the term "home school" student and replace it with "private school" student is not feasible because neither the legislature nor the public schools want to open all these public schools programs to all private school students. The expenses are too high.

HSLDA believes it is in the best interest of homeschoolers in Texas to remain in the same loosely regulated category as private school students. If both groups enjoy the same legal status, we will more easily maintain the freedom homeschools enjoy.

It is important to note, there is another bill, H.B. 580, that completely scraps the Universtiy Interscholastic League and creates a new commission that will create rules for participation in sports by private schools, public schools and charter schools. The sponsor of this bill removed the term "home school" thus avoiding the potential danger. Homeschools could simply fit under private schools in that bill in order to participate in sports.

We do not know for certain what the courts or legislatures will do with the statutorily created category of "home school" in Texas. But we would rather preserve our liberty than receive more "freebies." We all have fought too hard for freedom to take this risk.

 Other Resources

4/4/2003 - Texas--Equal Access Bill May Damage Homeschool Freedom

Bill Text