Last month, Kloie Kim, a 10-year-old competitive swimmer from Mansfield, dove headlong into the debate about home-schooled students being given the chance to compete in public school athletics.
Flanked by her mother, Rachel, Kloie spoke before the Senate Education Committee at the Capitol, telling committee members it’s unfair that home-schooled students are not eligible to compete in University Interscholastic League events.
“We pay the (property) taxes, so I think it’s more than fair we can compete” in public school sports, she said.
Kloie was among dozens who spoke about Senate Bill 640 on April 6. While she was among those who wanted access to UIL-sponsored sports and activities, other home-school proponents said they worried that the bill might result in more governmental regulation of home schooling in Texas.
For her part, though, Kloie mostly wanted the opportunity to continue to swim with her friends, whom she joins five times a week at the Mansfield Aquatics Club, which is about 30 miles southwest of Dallas.
“I have a lot of energy, but when I’m not swimming I go crazy,” she said. “When I’m in the water, I feel I can work hard and open up with my friends.”
Kloie, who is wrapping up her fifth-grade year, is among the roughly 350,000 home-schooled students in Texas. Although she has had fun competing against her friends, she was intrigued by the possibility of joining them at swim meets involving public school students.
For that reason, she spoke to lawmakers about the so-called Tim Tebow bill, which seeks to open UIL sports to home-schooled students. As of Friday, supporters’ hopes that the bill would advance to a House vote at the eleventh hour appeared to be sinking rapidly.
If the bill dies during this legislative session, Kloie expects to lose the opportunity to compete with her best friends, Lily Rossmann and Elise Clift, when all three enter the seventh grade in August 2018. Lily and Elise attend public schools and would be eligible for UIL meets at that point.
“Public schools are missing out on a huge pool of talent,” Rachel Kim said. “We would love to have Kloie swim for UIL teams, too.”
Kloie and her 13-year-old sister, Kadence, have been home-schooled for three years now. Both girls started out in public schools, but when Kadence suffered a brain injury in a car wreck, Rachel and her husband, Eric, decided to teach the girls at home.
At the time, Kadence was struggling to remember what she was learning in her public school classes. Math and reading were particularly challenging subjects for her, and she felt more comfortable staying at home. Now, both girls prefer to be home-schooled, their mother said.
“They’re both able to learn at a faster pace at home,” she said.