UIL Ruling Puts Private and Public Schools on Equal Footing

For the first time ever, Texas private and public schools may be competing on equal footing. The University Interscholastic League has voted to allow two private high schools, Dallas Jesuit and Houston's Strake Jesuit, to join the UIL. The two schools will play football and other sports, and also compete in other UIL activities, in the same district as public schools.

Although the UIL's decision currently only affects two schools, the ground is broken. Scott Kirkpatrick has two sons on the Grace Community High School basketball team, and he doesn't think there's any reason to change.

"I'm happy with the way things are now," Kirkpatrick says. "I don't see any reason for us to petition to get into the UIL."

Scott chose to move his children to Grace, trading the competition level of public schools for something he found more important.

"We liked the value of education there and also the Christian environment," he says. "It's also associated with the church we attend, so we knew a lot of the teachers. There's a lot of accountability there."

Combining public and private schools is a potential culture-clash, on major issues from recruiting to something as taken for granted as a private school's public pregame prayer. Kirkpatrick says that an issue he won't bend on.

"That is one of the reasons why we're at a private school," Kirkpatrick says."I think the motto at Grace is 'We play for an audience of one,' so prayer is a big part of what we do, from coaches all the way down to players."

Tyler's T. K. Gorman High School also expressed reservations over some of the compromises that would be required to join the UIL.

Prior to this decision, Texas was one of only a few states that did not group public and private schools together for competitions.

   Reid Kerr, reporting.