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Legislation could change sports eligibility for charter schools

Published: Thursday, Feb. 22 2007 12:11 a.m. MST

Sometimes it's tough to get both public and private schools to agree on educational issues.

But one of those seems to be a legislative proposal to change how home school students are determined to be eligible for sports, and it allows charter schools to be exempt from the state's transfer rules for the first three years of their existence.

"We don't really see this as a public school or private school or charter issue," said Travis Madsen, the athletic director for Meridian High School, a private school in Utah County. "We're all here for the same reason and that's to give students opportunities. At the same time, we don't want to give one school an unfair advantage over another."

That's what many school administrators feel will happen if Senate Bill 81, which passed the senate and is now headed for a house committee, becomes law.

Madsen was part of an informal meeting held between most of the state's private schools Wednesday morning. The meeting was organized by Jack Ballard of Westridge, because of concerns about the bill's implications.

Madsen said they all felt they needed to make a concerted effort to fight SB81 and the mentality that any type of school should be an exception to the rule.

"We're all for a level playing field," Madsen said of the administrators. "We've all gone through the rules."

He said the group of principals and athletic directors felt the bill hasn't been aired with the group it most affects.

"We felt like this was kind of snuck in under the radar because no one has really had a chance to respond to it," he said. "We all decided to go back to our schools and organize whatever effort we can. We just want to get the word out so it doesn't pass."

Madsen said that in addition to allowing charter schools to bypass the Utah High School Activities Association's transfer rules, private school officials worry that it will mean changes in the way schools are separated into regions and classifications.

"We're worried that we, as private schools, will be lumped in with them, and we want to stay playing in the classifications we're in," he said.

Because of problems with new charter schools, the UHSAA's executive committee has discussed the possibility that schools without boundaries, like charters and private schools, could be separated into their own classification and just play each other. That would eliminate the unfairness of schools with boundaries, which are required to adhere to transfer rules, competing with schools without boundaries or schools that have legal exceptions to the rules like SB 81 would provide.

"We want to be members of the association the way things are now," said Madsen of private schools.

The UHSAA staff has already had meetings with legislators on the bill, which is expected to be heard in a house committee later this week.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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