Texas passes bill allowing private schools to join public league

The days of public and private schools being separated on the playing field appear to be numbered, after the Texas senate passed a bill that would grant private schools the option to play against their public school counterparts in Texas' UIL. As the Dallas Morning News pointed out, the move may be a shocker to some in Texas, but it shouldn't come as a surprise since countless states already allow public and private schools to play each other in a number of sports.

Texas' House still has to approve the new idea, but for the most part you can safely assume that in the coming years there could be at least a couple of private schools winning state championships in a handful of sports.

"Students who are in private and parochial schools, their parents are paying school taxes. In my view, it's discrimination to not let those students participate. This is not the end of the world. It's just new competition," Sen. Dan Patrick told the Dallas Morning News.

Based on the new bill, this wouldn't be a change that would happen overnight, with the initial goal being to slowly blend the smaller private schools in, over the next five years, before dealing with the well-known schools like Ursuline, whose girls soccer team has won 21 consecutive TAPPS titles, and St. Mark's.

But anyone expecting to see perennial public school powerhouse Southlake Carroll take on some of the better private schools in football won't get their wish. While the bill allows for private schools to join UIL, the new bill excludes two of the biggest sports: football and basketball. As the paper pointed in their story, keeping both sports off allowed the bill to pass.

Still there are a lot of questions to be asked, as noted by the Dallas Morning News' Matt Wixon in a recent opinion piece.

Will each private school's classification — 1A through 5A — be based solely on enrollment or will there be other considerations? Will there be residency restrictions for freshmen who want to play varsity, as is the case for the Jesuit schools?

It seems that the general Texas public isn't convinced about the idea of incorporating private schools into UIL competitions, either. The Morning News published a poll asking its readers whether they thought private schools should be allowed to compete against other UIL members, and the results were striking: Nearly 65 percent felt private schools should be kept out.

All good question that will hopefully be answered in the coming months and years as the two groups try and find some solid middle ground. Still, one thing is certain: the biggest winners are the private school athletes who now get a chance to play on the state's biggest stage in a number of sports.

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