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PIAA looking into charter schools

Published February 27. 2014 05:00PM

The peace and calm that has marked the brief tenure of Dr. Robert Lombardi as executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association might be coming to an end.

And the irony is that Dr. Lombardi himself is the one who might shatter the quiet.

How? In front of a state government panel recently, it was Dr. Lombardi who brought forward the idea that charter schools - public school district creations that often act like private institutions - might be out of line by having their own athletic programs.

In Dr. Lombardi's words to the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee (PAOC), a number of PIAA member schools believe that "some charter schools . . . are being abused for athletic purposes and to provide open season for athletic transfers."


The statement got the attention of the attendees all sitting members of the General Assembly plus aides and resulted in some lively discussion that ended with the Committee's willingness to look into the issue and possibly hold a hearing on whether charter schools should sponsor their own athletic programs or whether those students should participate in their public school athletic programs.

According to Sean Harris, the executive director of the PAOC, that hearing could come as early as next month when the General Assembly returns to session.

"Representative (Gene) DiGirolamo (R-Bucks, the PAOC chairman) is thinking of holding a hearing into the issue," Harris said. "Actually, it's a two-pronged issue.

"First, charter schools are funded by public school districts and taxpayer dollars, and those school districts already fund athletic programs for the students in the public district. So what happens when a charter school has an athletic program, the school district is paying for two athletic programs, and that might run counter to the original intent of the charter schools,'' Harris said.

"Also, students are leaving the public school for the charter - and often, they are some of the best athletes - so the public school is suffering another loss, in that sense," Harris said.

The issue is a potential blockbuster considering the success enjoyed by some of the Philadelphia charter schools in basketball. Charter schools have won five PIAA boys basketball titles since 2006. Charter schools have won at least one title in each classification except Class AAAA.

There are 39 charter schools with basketball, the vast majority of which are located in and funded by the School District of Philadelphia. There is a sprinkling of charter schools in the rest of the state, some of which do not sponsor athletics.


FALL Championship SITES ... The PIAA announced its fall sports championship venues for 2014-2017. There is only one change from recent years: Girls volleyball will leave Central York High School and go to either Richland High School in Johnstown or the new Spooky Nook Athletic Center in Manheim. The other championship venues are Hershey Racquet Club (girls' tennis), Heritage Hills Golf Resort (golf), Hershey Parkview (cross-country), Zephyr Athletic Complex at Whitehall High School (field hockey) and Hersheypark Stadium (football and soccer).


IN THE MONEY ... The PIAA received a nice financial boost, signing a four-year ball contract with Rawlings starting in 2014-2015 that will be worth nearly $2.7 million. Rawlings, known primarily for baseballs, has recently entered the inflatable ball market and was seeking a major player to help boost its product line. It has a friend in Pennsylvania.

A Rawlings ball will be used for all ball sports except tennis.

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