A proposal was presented to the state government in Harrisburg on April 1 limiting sports programs at charter schools throughout the state. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), which oversees high school sports, brought a plan to the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee.
Robert Lombardi, PIAA executive director, brought the concerns from the member schools, that focused on boys high school basketball.
Lombardi cited in his proposal some of the competitive advantages charter schools have over public schools. “From a competitive standpoint, charter schools have made obsolete any realistic competition,” stated in his presentation to the committee.
Lombardi has recommended a plan that would require charter school students to play on public school teams at their community school unless that sport is offered only by the charter school.
“The issue right now is our charter schools have what I call dual eligibility,” Lombardi said. “A student can play at their school residence or the charter school. No other student going to a school in PIAA has that option. All I’m saying it let’s get the playing field even. It doesn’t matter to me which way it goes.”
In his presentation, he noted the success of the charter school basketball teams, “since 2006, we have had eight charter schools win PIAA boys basketball championships. During this period, we have had 12 charter schools compete for a PIAA boys’ basketball championship.”
Imhotep Charter has one of the best basketball programs in the state. The school has won four state titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013) during those years. Lombardi doesn’t feel the proposal is unfair to charter schools in Philadelphia.
“I think Philadelphia is a very unique situation because it’s one school district,” Lombardi said. “And that puts a different wrinkle to it. I think the leadership they have in those schools is attempting to do things the way they’re intended. But what I’ve seen from rosters, there’s people jumping. No one has a problem with the charter school if the kid goes there as a ninth grader and goes 9, 10, 11 and 12. The problem is the student that goes to another school in 11th grade and then goes to another school in 12th grade.”
Representative Gene Di Girolamo, R-Bucks County, is the chair of the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee. DiGirolamo would like to see the charter schools and the PIAA get together and address these issues.
“We have a legislative oversight committee which I’m the chairman,” DiGirolamo said. “This was brought to our attention as an issue of concern from the membership a few months ago. So, we decided to hold a public hearing a few weeks ago. We heard testimony from Dr. Lombardi and also a group representing the charter schools from around the state.
“Dr.Lombardi proposed a legislative remedy and very obviously the charter schools when they testified were opposed to it. Right now, as far as the oversight committee is concerned at the end of the meeting, the people from the charter schools and Dr. Lombardi are going to get together, sit down and have a meeting and see if they can work some of these differences and concerns out. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no legislation been introduced or proposed. We’re going to let them try to work it out themselves to see if there’s not a resolution or a remedy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.