PIAA solutions should ensure fairness for all

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic 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 student-athletes 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.

State Sen. Joseph Scarnati is serving his 5th term in the Pennsylvania Senate, where he is president pro tempore, and represents the 25th District that includes Clinton County.

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