Kentucky proposal limiting private schools' recruiting worth watching



The Kickoff

April 03, 2007|By MILTON KENT

Kentucky public high school officials are, in Bluegrass State parlance, betting on a long shot in an attempt to level the athletic playing field between public and private high schools there. If they're successful, the measure could have ramifications all over the country, including in Maryland.

The state's Board of Education, at the behest of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, might vote this week on a proposal that would effectively place a serious crimp in the ability of the state's private schools to recruit athletes.

If the Kentucky board approves these new restrictions, which would cover middle school students entering the seventh grade in the 2008-09 school year, it wouldn't take much imagination to see other states consider or even enact similar measures.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, the organizations that govern private school sports in the Baltimore area, have taken steps in recent years to quell anger from public schools over transfers on the high school level.

But there remains a simmering concern among public school coaches about the ability of their private school counterparts to pursue with impunity middle schoolers who might otherwise suit up for the neighborhood public school.

The pending Kentucky measure would, no doubt, alleviate the worries of public school coaches, while opening up a mighty can of worms among the private schools and parents who want to send their kids there.

The Kentucky state board will meet tomorrow and Thursday in Frankfort, the state capital, to consider Proposal 2, which, if adopted, would create "athletic attendance territories" for private schools, which would resemble the attendance areas for public schools.

Simply put, a private school would only be able to immediately play middle school kids who live in a geographic area assigned to that school - more than likely, a contiguous one - once they reach the ninth grade.

Any student who wanted to play sports at a private school out of his area would have to sit out a year under Proposal 2. The rule also would apply to seventh- and eighth-graders who switched schools, whether they moved from public to private schools or vice versa, but it doesn't take much effort to see whom the measure is intended for.

Presently, Kentucky's public and private high schools compete together for state championships, but not by choice of the KHSAA, which voted by a more than 2-1 margin 1 1/2 years ago to stage separate state playoffs.

The state board voted down the idea and ordered the association to come up with a plausible alternative, which it hasn't yet found.

Not surprisingly, there is considerable opposition to Proposal 2. Tim Shaughnessy, a state senator from Louisville, tried to attach an amendment against attendance territories to a bill that addressed the athletic eligibility of 19-year-olds, but the state's House voted it down.

Still, Shaughnessy expressed confidence to the The Courier-Journal of Louisville that the 11-member state board would reject Proposal 2.

"We believe that limiting students' access to high school athletics based upon the middle school they attend is a terrible education policy," Cecilia Price, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville, told The Courier-Journal.

It will be interesting to see if parents and students in other parts of the country will get to weigh in.

Correction -- A word was missing from Friday's column on the Mount Hebron girls lacrosse team's pursuit of their 100th straight win. I meant to say that the average victory margin for the Vikings in their state title games was 12 goals, not that they had won each game by at least 12 goals.

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