Object of high school sports is participation
With the state high school basketball championships in the books, the scholastic sports establishment has set out to ensure that what happened in the basketball playoffs never happens again.
Teams from two charter schools played for the Class A boys' championship. Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, Beaver County, defeated Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, Philadelphia, 70-66.
It was the fifth state title for a charter school team since 2006. Charter teams have won a championship in every division except AAAA.
Last week Bob Lombardi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, asked a legislative committee to bar charter schools from offering sports.
Mr. Lombardi has said that an unspecified number of administrators at PIAA schools believe that "some charter schools ... are being abused for athletic purposes and to provide open season for athletic transfers."
At the hearing last week, he added: "From a competitive standpoint, charter schools have made obsolete any realistic competition with traditional public schools."
Charter schools are public schools, funded with public money. Some of them cover multiple school districts. In terms of athletics, they are like private schools that do not have the same geographic boundaries as conventional public schools.
Mr. Lombardi pressed the committee for a law that would require charter school students to play sports only in the school district where they live - the rule for home-schooled students.
Legislators should not bite. Rather, they should remember that sports have a more fundamental role in schools than establishing win-loss records.
The objective is participation, which would be diminished by limiting charter students to their home district schools. Sports also are crucial to building camaraderie among students, fostering loyalty to the institution, and helping students develop teamwork and leadership skills.
Transfers for purely athletic purposes already are outlawed by the PIAA. The organization should investigate any complaints. Legislators, however, should recognize that sports are integral to the educational process and remember that the objective is student participation. Somehow, the PIAA's 1,416 junior and senior high schools, including 45 charter schools, will figure it out.