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Home schoolers would play UIL sports under proposed bill

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AMARILLO - More and more families in the panhandle are choosing to home school their children and right now that means no high school sports.

The state legislature is considering House Bill 1374 and Senate Bill 929, known together as the "Tim Tebow Bill." It's measure that would allow home schooled students to participate in all University Interscholastic League activities.

It turns out Tebowing isn't the only movement NFL star Tim Tebow ignited. Because of his high school home schooling background, 27 states have passed laws allowing home school students to play sports on public school teams.

"If Tim Tebow wasn't able to participate in the high school sport, he wouldn't have been able to achieve that level of success. And we couldn't do that here," Kerry McLain, father of three home schooled children, said.

All three of the McLain kids are athletes. Freshman Connor plays basketball with a home school league in Amarillo, 6th grader Cooper plays basketball and baseball, and high school junior Madi plays club soccer.

"It's harder especially during off season when you have to watch all your teammates and they're playing in high school and you're at home having to work by yourself," Madi said.

Madi has already been recruited to play college soccer through her club soccer league, but that doesn't happen much in other sports.

Recruiters for baseball, football, and most other sports only look at students who play in high school teams.

If the "Tim Tebow Bill" passes, McLain says his children would have equal opportunities as public school students, without having to compromise the home school education experience.

"It's unfortunate that our children don't have the same opportunities because we do pay property taxes like everybody else," McLain said.

Those opposed to the bill say home schoolers would easily be able to get around UIL eligibility requirements, including attendance, grades, and behavior standards.

Amarillo Independent School District Athletic Director Brad Thiessen agrees it may be difficult to ensure the playing field is equal, but he's prepared for the possibility.

"It would have to be within the high school that they live in, that would have to be an eligibility requirement," Thiessen said. "But if they change the rule, then we'll allow them and we'll invite them in. But we have to abide by the rule that the UIL set."

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