HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Texas homeschooled families may soon have the option of enrolling their children in UIL activities offered in public schools.
The UIL Equal Access Bill, also referred to as the “Tebow” bill, has passed through both chambers and now sits on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. If signed, homeschooled children would be able to participate in public school extracurriculars like sports, robotics, music, and more.
According to the Texas Homeschool Coalition, Texas leads the nation in the number of families homeschooling children with more than 350,000 students homeschooled.
Tracy O’Loughlin coordinates a homeschool group in Harlingen, which she says has an average of 30 to 40 families a year. She has five children, all of whom have been homeschooled for part, or the entirety of, their education.
For her family, homeschooling is the best option due to their travel schedule in which they spend months on the road for ministry and to compete in equestrian events.
“It just works for us to be able to travel,” she said. “We can do school when it’s hot in the summer and take off in the wintertime when we have different shows or horse events and we can homeschool on the road, so it makes it convenient for our lifestyle.”
O’Loughlin currently enrolls her children in city leagues and takes field trips with other homeschooled families.
“We do different things so they get those extra things they can do in the group with kids their age,” O’Loughlin said. “We do field trips all over. We go up to Corpus to see the aquarium or the Lexington. We go all over the Valley to all of the nature parks, to anything every other school would go to for a field trip.”
Though the group is flush with activities, this bill expands their options.
“We have lots of families that this is a very important bill for,” she said. “We do want our kids to be able to participate in those activities and we have lots of kids that want to be able to play baseball or football or basketball. And we have kids, but we don’t have the numbers to necessarily have the full team.”
The Harlingen Homeschool Group holds monthly meetings and field trips that follow CDC guidelines. According to O’Loughlin, the families are all in favor of the bill, and since they do not receive tax breaks for homeschooling, they believe it is only fair that their children get to enjoy some of the activities they help fund.
“There’s a whole group of us that were calling and talking to our legislators — senators and congressmen — and saying, ‘hey, vote yes for this,’” she said. “We’ve been wanting this for years, even when the oldest ones were in school and were like we want this down here.”
Other homeschool groups throughout Texas oppose it out of fear it will lead to increased government regulations on homeschooling.