EDITORIAL: Parity in Interscholastic Athletics act won't solve woes in high school sports

York Dispatch
Every high school sports team in Pennsylvania would like to win a PIAA state title trophy, pictured above. A new bill would assure that more public schools would have the opportunity to win state crowns.
  • The Parity in Interscholastic Athletics act was recently unveiled.
  • The bill would require separate state playoffs for public and private schools.
  • The bill's aim is to give public schools more opportunities to win state titles.

There’s no denying that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association is facing some serious issues.

Private and charter schools have significant competitive advantages.

First, those schools don’t have to abide by the same boundary restrictions that public schools must obey.

Second, private and charter schools have long been accused of actively recruiting the best players from the public schools. Such recruiting for athletic purposes is not permitted under PIAA rules, but that hasn’t stopped it from happening.

As a result, private and charter schools have excelled in the state playoffs, especially in the high-profile sports of basketball and football. In 2019, for example, private or charter schools won five of the six PIAA boys’ basketball state titles, despite the fact those schools represent less than 20% of the PIAA membership.

Not surprisingly, that has created some bitter feelings on the part of the public-school folks, and some of them are demanding changes. Last year, the Pennsylvania Athletic Equity Steering Committee was formed with the hopes of addressing the inequities. There was talk the public schools would leave the PIAA if the organization didn't approve separate state playoffs for private/charter schools and public schools.

Proposal would separate public, private playoffs in 8 sports, ease transfer restrictions

The PIAA said it was barred, by a 1972 state law, from holding separate state playoffs.

So, some of the public-school officials decided to go to the state Legislature with their complaints and they’ve found some sympathetic ears.

The result is the Parity in Interscholastic Athletics act that was introduced June 11, which would require separate state playoffs for public and private schools. The bill’s backers claim this proposal would level the playing field and give the public schools a better opportunity to win state championships.

Well, if the bill is approved, public schools would assuredly win more state titles.

Unfortunately, the proposal would also create a whole new set of problems.

That’s why the bill is not the answer to solving the myriad issues that plague Pennsylvania high school sports and it should not be approved.

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Recruiting issue: First, the proposed bill would almost totally eliminate transfer restrictions. Players could transfer to any school they wished for any reason.

If you thought recruiting is a problem now, wait until there are almost no transfer restrictions. Recruiting would become rampant.

The recruiting concession was likely made by public school supporters of the bill to gain the support of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which had previously been opposed to separate state playoffs.

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Charter problem: Second, the bill would not solve the charter school issue.

Under the proposal, charter schools would still compete with the public schools, even though charter schools don’t have to abide to the boundary restrictions that limit purely public schools.

The backers of the new bill said charter schools are considered public schools under state law and must be allowed to compete with purely public schools.

With no boundary restrictions, and with no limits on recruiting, the charter schools would likely become an even greater force come playoff time. It would likely create an era of charter school superpowers.

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Diluted titles, lack of details: Finally, separating private and public schools for the state playoffs would only serve to dilute the true meaning of winning state championships.

Yes, there will be more state titles, but that smacks of the “everybody-gets-a-ribbon” mentality that is prevalent today.

Winning a state championship should be difficult. If it’s not, how valuable is the trophy that comes with it?

The details of how this bill will be implemented, should it pass, are also very much in question. The PIAA would likely be left to figure it out. That’s probably one reason the PIAA is steadfastly opposed to the proposal.

Yes, there are problems with the PIAA playoffs. There’s no doubt about that. The new bill, however, would only serve to make current situation even worse.