PIAA so­lu­tions should in­clude fair­ness for all

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION - SEN. JOE SCARNATI

The Penn­syl­va­nia In­ter- scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (PIAA) was cre­ated more than a hun­dred years ago to pro­vide fair, uni­form stan­dards gov­ern­ing high school sports. The body was ex­panded in 1972 to in­clude pri­vate schools to end the sep­a­ra­tion of schools from dif­fer­ent back­grounds.

The in­tent of the 1972 law was clear. Law­mak­ers sought to end the seg­re­ga­tion of non-pub­lic schools in or­der to al­low all schools and stu­dents to com­pete for state cham­pi­onships. While this sys­tem is not per­fect, the or­ga­ni­za­tion works tire­lessly to en­sure the com­pet­i­tive bal­ance be­tween pub­lic, pri­vate and char­ter schools is pre­served.

The PIAA has come un­der fire in re­cent weeks from crit­ics who claim that the cur­rent sys­tem pro­vides an un­fair ad­van­tage to pri­vate and char­ter schools since pub­lic schools are re­stricted to field­ing only those stu­den­tath­letes who live within the ge­o­graphic bound­aries of the school dis­trict. Some have even called for the cre­ation of a new play­off sys­tem that seg­re­gates pub­lic schools from pri­vate and char­ter schools — a step that would pre­vent some of the best teams and ath­letes from ever fac­ing each other at the high­est lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion.

Al­though there is a great deal of de­bate about the proper rem­edy for these is­sues, there is broad agree­ment that the PIAA should take a closer look at these claims to en­sure ev­ery school, team and ath­lete re­ceives a fair shake.

In July, the PIAA sought a com­pro­mise to level the play­ing field by ap­prov­ing two new reg­u­la­tions de­signed to boost com­pet­i­tive­ness and par­ity among bound­ary and non-bound­ary schools.

Stricter rules for trans­fers will help pre­vent char­ter and pri­vate schools from si­phon­ing off the most tal­ented stu­dent-ath­letes from pub­lic schools. In ad­di­tion, the cre­ation of a new com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess for­mula will en­sure schools that con­sis­tently per­form at a high level can even­tu­ally move up to face stronger com­pe­ti­tion, in­stead of cre­at­ing a per­ma­nent bar­rier to other schools’ op­por­tu­ni­ties to achieve play­off suc­cess.

These new reg­u­la­tions di­rectly ad­dress some of the most se­ri­ous con­cerns ex­pressed by su­per­in­ten­dents and pub­lic school of­fi­cials who are un­happy with the cur­rent sys­tem. I am hope­ful that this bal­anced re­sponse will pro­vide a greater op­por­tu­nity for both bound­ary and non-bound­ary schools to com­pete and suc­ceed. The PIAA de­serves a chance to see if these re­forms will work be­fore they con­sider more ex­treme mea­sures that could swing the pen­du­lum too far in an­other di­rec­tion.

The PIAA has a strong track record of pro­mot­ing fair com­pe­ti­tion for all schools on equal terms, and I ap­plaud their ef­forts to find a mid­dle ground on this dif­fi­cult is­sue. As both sides con­tinue to de­bate is­sues of com­pet­i­tive­ness be­tween bound­ary and non-bound­ary schools, I en­cour­age all par­ties to work co­op­er­a­tively to­ward so­lu­tions that are fair for ev­ery type of school and, more im­por­tantly, for ev­ery stu­dent-ath­lete.

SEN. JOE SCARNATI, R-25, is pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the Penn­syl­va­nia Se­nate. He rep­re­sents eight coun­ties in northcen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia.

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