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\\\ Liberty City Press

New Charter for Charter Schools? PIAA policy proposals spark controversy from the outset

by Jeremy Treatman

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fter years of complaining, the PIAA may have been listening after all. But that doesn’t mean the complaining will stop. In fact, it’s just getting started! What are we talking about? A hot button issue in which Robert Lombardi, the executive director of the PIAA, the state’s governing body for sports, proposed in late March that charter schools throughout the state would not be allowed to offer sports for those student-athletes whose neighborhood schools offered the same individual sport. What does this mean? It could mean that schools such as Imhotep Charter (four boys’ basketball state titles and two AA football runners-up in six years), Philadelphia Electrical and Technology (2014 AAA boys’ basketball semifinalist), Prep Charter (state AA champs in 2006 and 2007) and other charter schools in the city would be unable to compete athletically and ultimately athletically as well. For example, if an Imhotep student is found to be from South Philadelphia (Imhotep is located in the Olney section of Philadelphia) he or she would have to play basketball, lacrosse or tennis at South Philadelphia High School if the sport was offered there. That student could stay at Imhotep for classes if he or she chooses. District 12 officials will be meeting with PIAA officials on April 9 in what could be a heated exchange of voices and ideas. “We have had an open enrollment policy from the inception of the school and do not recruit,” said Lonnie Diggs, the athletic director at Math, Civics and Sciences, which won one state championship in 2011

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and lost in the finals this year in boys’ basketball in the A category. “I think that parents have seen the success of the charter schools academically and have chosen to send their boys and girls to our schools for a full experience and quality education. Any change to this would be very hurtful for opportunities for lots of kids in the city.” One former city boys’ and girls’ basketball coach, who declined to speak on the record, said that the “charter schools have been proving to give the student- athletes of our cities a better academic support than the regular city schools. As an “oldhead” I wish this wasn’t the case. But it’s hard to argue that these kids are getting academically qualified, graduating and performing well in the classroom and in sports. I wish the traditional schools were still keeping the best high school kids home in their neighborhoods. It’s a really tough issue. The charter schools caused change, some for the better and some for worse. Now, the PIAA is reacting. Is it fair? It depends on who you ask but the real people who would know are the people it’s affecting.” At this stage, the PIAA is just initiating legislation. By no means has it passed, nor is it presumed that it will pass. And even if it does, who would enforce it or decide where a kid from Mastery North Charter is from, for example, and if so decide what his local school is, and if he or she would be allowed to compete in a respective sport? It’s an issue that is similar to: should college athletes be paid?, and should high school athletes be drug tested?, and who would decide the logistics and implementation of such measures? There are no easy answers

which is part of the reason why the PIAA has stayed out of this dispute for most of the past five or six years. (The PIAA has allowed open enrollment for charter schools and has not enforced recruiting rules for Catholic League or Public League schools.) “If there have been transfers, as long as the principals of both schools have agreed upon it and signed on it, then we have stayed out of it,” said a PIAA official. “It is the attendance issue at the charters that causes the problem of a group of good players deciding to apply and be accepted by the one school,” said PIAA District One Chairman Bob Ruoff. “This Committee was commissioned by the Pa. State Legislature. In the public sector like James Lewis head coach of PET, whose District One, we would like the charters students could be affected by potential changes by the PIAA. Photo by Sarah J. Glover to have some type of transfer rule that we have and can be enforced. This will not be easy because many of the charters have specialized curriculum that specializes in particular areas of study that can be a reason why students can be attracted but just happen to be outstanding basketball players. With charters being any to pop up anywhere and be allowed to have teams, territorial issues can be hard to define. This is a tough one.” Another critical issue, also, is why the charter schools are being solely looked at under this proposal? Already athletic officials at charter schools have told Liberty City Press off the record that they are unhappy with this proposal and also don’t understand why Catholic League schools are not a part of it.

...I wish the traditional schools were still keeping the best high school kids home in their neighborhoods. Over the last several years, skeptics of Catholic League schools’ dominance in the postseason have equaled criticism of the charter schools’ sports dominance by those who accuse both leagues of unfair recruiting advantages. In almost all cases, these critics are talking about football and basketball and in District 12, which comprised Catholic schools, the Philadelphia Public League and all the charter schools. Catholic League schools such as Archbishop Wood and St. Joseph’s Prep are always in the state football title hunt, and Neumann-Goretti, La Salle and Archbishop Carroll and Archbishop Wood have dominated in both boys’ and girls’ basketball in the past decade. “I think they’re trying to take a shot at what we have accomplished in the PIAA,” MC & S coach Jackson told Philly.com last week. “And I honestly don’t think it’s fair.” Lombardi said the legislation resulted from complaints from PIAA members throughout the state. Those complaints, he said, started three to four years ago. They grew as Philadelphia’s charter schools continued to dominate the PIAA basketball tournament. He said that Catholic schools are not included in this proposal because families choose Continued on page 2

APR. 13-20, 2014

Liberty City Press is a collaborative publication effort of the Philadelphia Multicultural Media Network.

PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  
PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  

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