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Austin area home-schoolers say option of playing for local high schools is fair game

By Ric Cantu Austin American Statesman Staff Writer

Posted April 25, 2021 "The gas bill is pretty high," Gonzales said. "That's why I have to have a job at my dad's tire store." Mata, who lives in Lockhart, also has a job to make ends meet. A three-sport star, he also competes in basketball and track and field.

"I've always wondered what it would be like to play for the local high school," Mata said. "Our (Tribe) team isn't very big and we probably don't get more than a 100 people watch our home games."

Bastrop Tribe Consolidated football coach Brent Goleman said public schools should be receptive to having home-schoolers join their teams. He noted that many public schools already are losing kids who bypass high school sports to compete in AAU or other club sports.

"For kids today to get to the next level, they've been playing in private club sports over the last decade, mainly in volleyball and basketball and a lot of women's sports," Goleman said.

Tracey Day, who coaches the Austin Royals six-man team for home-schoolers, noted that they pay school taxes but have to pay for their own sports gear. Based in Georgetown, the Royals are represented by kids from all over Central Texas. And there are a few disadvantages they face.

"When you go to a public school, it's all funded," said Day, a loan officer for a local mortgage company. "Your uniform. Your letterman jacket. The sport itself. We pay the same exact taxes but as home-schoolers we have to pay for our teachers, our classes, our books. We have to pay for all the sports equipment. The kids are paying $600 to play the game of six-man football."

There are 35 states that allow home-schoolers to compete in athletics and other extracurricular activities in public schools. The issue grew national attention when former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow competed for a high school in Florida that he did not attend.

Joe Martin represents a large group of high school officials and coaches who are against home-schoolers competing for schools they don't attend. The Texas High School Coaches Association executive director told state lawmakers that home-schoolers are not subject to the same requirements that public school students face.

Even if the governor signs the bill as it's written, there is one more major hurdle home-schoolers must clear before they play for public schools. Those schools do not have to accept the new students. Local school district officials would have the choice on whether to let home-schooled students to play on their districts' teams.

It remains to be seen whether school districts will block home-schools from joining their teams. Round Rock school athletic director Dwayne Weirich said Monday that the issue has not been discussed by his district.

A few local football coaches, however, have not endorsed the idea.

Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders: "The number one concern is that we are looking to other states for guidance. That's one of the reasons the supporters give for passing this bill. Texas does athletics right. Other states should follow what we do. In all the speaking engagements I've had in other parts of the country, we are the envy of all other states. We monitor transfers, we have athletic periods and public schools are strong."

Cedar Park football coach Carl Abseck, walking the sideline during a game against Vandegrift, is against adding home-schoolers to UIL teams. He said athletics is "an extension of the classroom setting and is there to serve our students who are held to the same standards."

"There are too many gray areas where people can take advantage of the situation and the education standards and expectations are not apple to apple," said Cedar Park coach Carl Abseck. "If the public school is not the place for your child to be educated in the classroom, the public school athletics arena shouldn't be available either. Athletics is an extension of the classroom setting and is there to serve our students who are all held to the same standards, go through the same testing, are with us on a daily basis and are held accountable by the public school employees."

The Royals' Day knows his athletes might face opposition. When asked whether it's fair for school districts to bar home-schoolers from competition, he had a quick response: "What would happen if I didn't pay my taxes?"


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