Homeschool families in Texas are celebrating new laws that increase educational opportunities and freedoms for students and their parents.
Stephanie Lambert, executive director of the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), shared details on the laws in a YouTube video released by the organization.
“We are so thankful to God for the victory he’s given families this session,” she said.
THSC supported seven of these bills, signed by Governor Greg Abbott. Together they expand access to higher education and extracurricular activities, remove juvenile curfews, and protect parents during CPS investigations.
‘Discrimination against homeschool students’
One bill, H.B. 3993, addresses discrimination against homeschoolers who want to pursue post-secondary education.
Public school students in the top 10% of their class receive automatic admission to state colleges, but homeschoolers without an official class ranking couldn’t benefit from that policy.
With the new law, colleges can calculate the average SAT or ACT scores of students in the top 10% of their classes. If homeschoolers score within that range, they also receive automatic admission.
“This is the third time in the past two decades that the THSC has gone to the Legislature to deal with and fix discrimination against homeschool students in the college admission process,” Lambert told The Lion.
Homeschoolers will also enjoy more access to extracurricular activities through the University Interscholastic League (UIL), “the largest inter-school organization of its kind in the world,” according to the University of Texas at Austin.
Since 1910, the league has provided educational extracurricular academic, athletic and music contests for students.
Homeschool families were prohibited from participating until the UIL Equal Access Bill, or H.B. 547, passed in May 2021.
However, since that time only about 2% of Texas school districts chose to allow homeschoolers to participate, Lambert said.
“They were concerned about receiving negative consequences from the UIL,” Lambert said. “And then the other thing was funding. So we came back to the Legislature this session to fix those problems so that school districts could offer those opportunities to homeschool students.”
Since H.B. 699 became law, school districts no longer face negative consequences from the UIL if they add homeschool students to their educational activities.
Governor Abbott signed an additional bill, H.B. 3708, which provides a financial incentive of $1,500 per student per activity to districts allowing homeschoolers to participate.
‘Now parents are the ones in charge’
Another bill, H.B. 1819, struck down juvenile curfews across the state. These included daytime curfews, which disproportionately affected homeschool students, Lambert said.
“Instead of their parents being able to determine when and where they were allowed to be, they were vulnerable to arrest,” she told The Lion. “They were disproportionately affected by these rules because they weren’t naturally in school during those times.”
The organization has been working to end these curfews for more than 20 years, Lambert said.
“Now parents are the ones in charge of when and where their kids can go,” she said. “Kids can go out of doors without fear of being prosecuted.”
Three more bills strengthened protections and legal options for families involved in investigations from Child Protective Services.
One of them, H.B. 63, ends the practice of anonymous reporting to CPS officials.
“The vast majority of accusations against families to CPS turn out to be baseless, and families are dragged through heart-wrenching investigations,” Lambert said.
Another bill, H.B. 730, requires case workers to inform parents of their legal rights during any investigations.
“These are rights that have been allowed to criminals, but had been denied parents,” Lambert said. “So now parents have that same right.”
Finally, H.B. 793 allows families involved in a CPS investigation to choose any qualified service provider, instead of having to choose only from CPS-certified service providers.
“It makes it easier for families to access these services they need, and makes it more likely for them to reunite with their children,” Lambert said.
Homeschool growth in Texas
While homeschooling numbers doubled nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeschool population in Texas tripled, Lambert said.
“We now have an estimated three-quarters of a million students in Texas who are being homeschooled,” she said. “That is more than all private school and charter school students combined. … It’s just grown exponentially in the last few years.”
Lambert recommended residents within Texas start at the organization’s website, where they can find local homeschool groups by typing in their zip code. National resources include HomeschoolFreedom.com and HomeEducator.com.
The organization is already planning for its next legislative session. Its goals include the passing of two constitutional amendments to further enshrine the rights of parents to raise their children, whether that involves home education or making medical decisions for them.
“Those are really high priorities for us,” Lambert said, “and we see them as really important to protecting freedoms into the future for families in Texas.”