How “Friends” Kill Your Bills

A week ago today we worked hard at the Capitol to build support for SB 1214, which was on the House Calendar for debate on the very last day that Senate Bills could be heard in the House. We worked hard and contacted every member of the House, and it appeared that we had strong support for this bill that would require UIL to allow private schools to compete against public schools in extracurricular activities. Unfortunately when midnight came SB 1214 was still 30 bills down the list, and, therefore, the bill died.

This was the second time that a UIL participation bill had been killed by waiting too long to take action on it. Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, delayed the consideration of HB 2322, the House companion bill of SB 1214, in spite of the written support of a majority of the committee. While Representative Eissler told me that he supported the bill, he continued to delay the bill’s vote in the committee. In fact, those close to him said he decided to finally allow the bill out of committee when it was obviously too late to make it to the floor.

When Rep. John Garza, the House author of HB 2322 and the House sponsor of SB 1214, told Eissler that SB 1214 was on the House Calendar, Eissler was shocked, saying that he was surprised because it had been “tagged” in the Calendars Committee, meaning that someone opposed it. He went on to tell the bill’s sponsor he would do whatever he could to help pass the bill.

So this is how your “friends” kill your bills. SB 1214 passed the Senate three times, once as a stand-alone bill and then as amendments to two other bills the last time with 28 votes. HB 2322 was voted out of committee with only one “no” vote, as was SB 1214. Our work with the members of the House indicated broad support, and therefore, the opponents’ best tactic was simply to delay the bills until it was too late to get them to the floor of the House for a vote, which they accomplished.

Yesterday the governor announced he was going to call the legislature back for a Special Session starting this morning. He did so because a Democratic Senator killed the Budget Bill by filibuster in the Senate. In a Special Session the Governor sets the agenda, and we have asked him to add the parental rights issue (HB 2557) and the UIL issue (HB 2322) as well. This is a new session and a new opportunity to protect parents and children and end the discrimination against private school students in UIL. As my friends used to tell me, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Stay tuned!

Support SB 1214

Last night the Texas House prepared to debate and vote on the Fiscal Matters Bill (SB 1581), the bill to which we had planned to offer an amendment that would allow private schools to compete in University Interscholastic League (UIL). That bill was killed on a point of order, which eliminated the opportunity that we were seeking to revive HB 2322, the House version of the Equal Access Bill.

Today will be the last day that the House hears Senate bills, and on the Calendar today is SB 1214, which would allow private schools to compete in UIL. Some legislators who are inclined to support this bill are receiving more calls from public school employees opposing the bill than for those supporting it. It is imperative that we call to ask legislators to stop discriminating against private schools.

Please call your state representative and ask them to support SB 1214!

  • 47 other states allow private schools to compete with public schools.

  • UIL discriminated against non-white public school students for more than 50 years of its existence, until the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Students who attend private schools should not be discriminated against because of where they attend school.

  • Two private schools have already been allowed to compete in UIL since 2003 with no adverse impact.

  • UIL officials have testified that they apply the same rules to private schools as they do to public magnet schools, rules that require these private and magnet schools to compete at one level above their actual school size.

  • UIL sanctions are in place to prohibit recruiting and other rules violations, and UIL officials have testified that they would have no problem in making this work.

Private School UIL Vote

The House Public Education Committee voted SB 1214 out of committee on Thursday night, and the Calendars Committee has placed it on the Calendar for Tuesday, which is now the last day for Senate bills to be heard. These actions are a testament to the support for private school participation in UIL since this measure is strongly opposed by the Texas High School Coaches Association. SB 1214 has passed the Texas Senate three times–once as a stand-alone bill and twice as amendments to House bills (HB 370 & HB 1286). The authors of these House bills struck the language of SB 1214 after they passed in the Senate in spite of the fact that it could mean the death of their bills.

Rep. John Garza, the House sponsor of SB 1214, plans to offer the language of SB 1214 today as an amendment to the Fiscal Matters Bill (SB 1581). SB 1581 was postponed from last week. Chairman Rob Eissler will also today offer his amendment, adding HB 400 (the Education Reform Bill) language.

It is critical that you call your state representative and ask him to support the Garza amendments to SB 1581 allowing private schools to participate in UIL and to support SB 1214 on the Calendar tomorrow. Use one or more of the talking points below for reasons to support this bill:

  • Texas is one of only three states that does not allow private schools to compete in extracurricular activities with public schools. (California and Connecticut are the others.)
  • UIL discriminated against black public school students for more than 50 years of its existence, until the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Students who attend private schools should not be discriminated against because of where they attend school.
  • Two private parochial schools have been allowed to participate in UIL since 2003 with no problems or allegations of rules violations.
  • UIL leaders have acknowledged that they treat these two private schools the same as magnet schools in the public school sector. Magnet schools recruit students beyond school boundaries just as private schools do. UIL requires them to compete at one level higher than their actual school size, thus participating at a disadvantage.
  • UIL sanctions are in place to prohibit recruiting and other rules violations, and UIL officials have testified that they would have no problem in making this work.

UIL and TPRRA update

The Texas legislative session has about two weeks to go, and people are working hard to get bills passed, kill legislation they view as bad, and find bills to add amendments to in order to pass legislation. We are no different. Our Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) (HB 2557) died last week on the House Calendar a dozen or so bills from the last bill heard. So we continue to look for Senate bills that have passed the Senate and are currently in the House and for House bills that have passed the House and are in the Senate that are similar to ours so we can seek to amend our language onto those bills.

While the Family Law Foundation continues to call the TPRRA a “bad bill . . . which would have practically eliminated court-ordered access for grandparents to see their grandchildren,” the reality is that it would end abuse of the Grandparent Access Law by requiring that no temporary orders can be adopted by a court until a hearing is held within 45 days and that the grandparents prove what the current law requires, which is “that denial of access or possession would significantly impair the physical health and emotional well-being of the child.” Most see this as a common sense change that protects both parents and children.

We’ve been talking to senators about the legislation and giving them background should we be able to get our language amended to another active bill. Another option is to get the governor to add our bill to the agenda should it become necessary to have a special session as is becoming more likely. The governor can call a 30-day special session, and only what he approves can be placed on the agenda.

We also continue to work on the UIL for Private Schools issue (HB 2322 and SB 1214). Yesterday we issued an alert asking for people to call Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, to ask him to vote SB 1214 out of the committee and to the floor. This morning Representative Eissler told me that he will place that bill on the agenda for tomorrow’s committee meeting. Thank you for your calls.

The House author of HB 2322, Rep. John Garza, is the sponsor for SB 1214 and plans to substitute the language of HB 2322 since it does not restrict private school participation to everything except football and basketball. In the meantime Sen. Dan Patrick, author of SB 1214, has attached language from SB 1214 to two House bills. HB 370 by Rep. Scott Hochberg is one of those bills since Senator Patrick was the Senate sponsor on that bill. This morning I heard that Representative Hochberg was not planning to concur with that change and was going to move to strike the desired language even though it may endanger his bill. HB 1286 by Rep. Donna Howard was also amended with the same language from SB 1214. It remains to be seen whether or not she will agree to the language.

Today the House will take up the debate of HB 1581 on fiscal matters, to which Representative Eissler will seek to add the language of HB 400 on education issues, and Representative Garza plans to offer an amendment for the language of HB 2322 to that bill as well. As you can see many efforts are underway to get the UIL for Private Schools bill passed, and we continue to do everything possible to successfully conclude the legislative session.

HB 2557 Misses House Vote

Thursday night, May 12, the Texas House of Representatives debated and voted on bills until midnight as it was the deadline to have House bills voted out of committee. The Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) HB 2557 was down the list another dozen bills or so when time ran out.

While this was disappointing it was not unexpected, and we will continue to look for other legislative vehicles (bills) that we might add the language of HB 2557 to in order to have it passed into law. We have made more progress this session than last session, and we are not done yet. We’ll keep working to find a way to amend the law to protect the right of fit single parents and their children. As some say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Stay tuned and keep praying.

Private Schools in UIL Update

Last week the Texas House Public Education Committee passed HB 2322 that would require UIL to allow private schools to compete in the league along with public schools. Eight members of the committee registered their support, and the bill was moved to the Calendars Committee, which chooses bills to send to the House floor for debate and vote.

While this is good news, the better news is that the Texas Senate voted SB 1214, the Senate version of the bill, out of the Senate on a 22-7 vote with one senator voting “present.” This is good news because the deadline for House bills to be voted on is this week, and there may not be enough time to get HB 2322 to the floor for a vote. But SB 1214 will be sent to the House Public Education Committee, and we expect that bill to be voted out and on to the Calendars Committee and to the House floor.

As I have said before, this is a first step in seeing home school students being allowed to participate in extracurricular activities in public schools. While Texas is one of only three states that does not allow all private schools to compete in UIL, it has allowed two Catholic schools to compete since 2003 with no problems, according to UIL officials. Officials also said that the private schools are treated the same as the 80 or so public magnet schools. This means that all the same rules apply to these two schools except they are also required to compete at one level higher than their school size.

Once private schools are allowed to compete, it will be much easier to convince the legislature to allow home school students to compete in the public school in the district in which they reside. In fact, 27 states allow home school students to do this. Stay tuned.

TPRRA Calendars Update

The Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (HB 2557) was finally sent to the House Calendars Committee last week. We have worked hard to add co-sponsors to the bill to show support for the measure that will close a loophole in the Grandparent Access Law, which has allowed some grandparents to sue single, fit parents and drag lawsuits out for year, at costs of thousands of dollars, to gain possession of the grandchildren.

This week is the deadline for House bills to be debated and voted on in the House, and we have just learned that some member(s) of the Calendars Committee oppose HB 2557. We are working to determine who they are and address their concerns. We were at the Capitol until 8 p.m. last night, and the good news is the Calendars Committee placed the TPRRA on the House Calendar for Thursday, the last day a House bill can be considered for a vote. The bad news is that its place on the Calendar is very late, and there is a good chance the House may not get to it before midnight.

In the meantime we continue to look for other legislative vehicles that we might use to amend with the TPRRA. Thank you for your continued prayers.

TPRRA in Calendars Committee

The Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (HB 2557) was voted favorably out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee last week. The bill has been delayed in being reported to the House Calendars Committee, the committee that is responsible for sending bills to the House floor for debate and vote, until yesterday.

The deadline for House bills to be voted out of the House is Tuesday, May 10. Please call and email members of the House Calendars Committee and ask them to set HB 2557 on the Calendar as soon as possible.

Private Schools and UIL

The Texas legislature is considering legislation (SB 1214 and HB 2322) that would bring Texas into the twenty-first century to join 47 other states in allowing private schools to compete against public schools in the University Interscholastic League (UIL). UIL was established by the legislature in 1910 and was initially open to all students as a debate league. It was later merged with a group that focused on all events and was limited to white public school students. In the 1960s civil rights legislation forced UIL to allow all public school students to join, and that discrimination ended.

In 2003 UIL changed its policy to allow two private parochial schools to join UIL. These two schools are treated the same as magnet schools (public schools which offer special courses and allow students from across the district to enroll). UIL officials recently indicated in a public hearing on HB 2322 that there had been no problems with these schools in the eight years that they have been in the league. In spite of this testimony, the Texas High School Coaches Association has strongly opposed these bills. They argue that allowing the schools to compete would “destroy the level playing field enjoyed by public schools.” This argument is obviously not valid, based on the history of almost 10 years with the current private schools participating in UIL. It only makes sense to allow all private schools to join UIL.

Texas is one of only three states that do not allow private schools to participate in their equivalent of UIL. The 300,000 private-schooled students in the state represent more than $3.5 billion the state does not have to pay to educate those children (based on approximately $11,000 spent per public-schooled student). More families would choose to put their children in private schools if the advantages of private schools were expanded. This move would represent further savings for the state and would have a financially positive effect.

One home school mom put it this way: “In Texas, we are very proud of our freedoms. We are traditionally a pro-parental choice and pro-parental rights state. We respect parents’ rights to choose public, private, or home education for their children. But then we go and provide this huge taxpayer-funded benefit to those who choose only one of those lawful options, although all pay taxes. This is discriminatory and inherently unfair.”

While opponents argue about “advantages” that private schools would have over public schools, the currently participating private schools and magnet schools are required to compete above their school size, which actually puts them at a disadvantage, and all of the UIL rules apply to them as well. Opponents of the bill also argue that they are concerned about “recruiting” efforts by private schools, but there are rules in place to deal with such violations, and by UIL’s own admission there has been no problem with the current private schools who are competing. After all, 47 other states are able to make it work.

This issue is one of fairness and equity, and we must stop the discrimination against families who choose to pay not only for public education (through their taxes) but also for the private education of their own children. These bills must pass.

SB 1214 has passed out of the Education Committee in the Senate and is currently short of the 21 votes needed for a floor vote. These senators need to hear from you: Senators Duncan, Eltife, Fraser, Huffman, and Jackson. Ask them to support fairness and equity and allow SB 1214 to come to the Senate floor for a vote.

HB 2322 had a hearing last week and has enough votes to be voted out of committee. State Representative Eisler has not yet allowed the bill to come to a vote in his committee, and time is growing short. Please call his office and ask him to let HB 2322 be voted out of committee. These bills must move soon or they will die. These bills also represent the best hope of seeing home schoolers being able to participate in UIL in the future.