Charter schools taken aback by threats to sports programs

Posted: April 11, 2014

FOR THE FIRST time since the PIAA voiced concerns that charter schools tilt the competitive balance in their favor because of enrollment practices, District 12 charters responded yesterday to the association's executive director, Dr. Robert Lombardi.

And a familiar theme was sounded at a 90-minute meeting at Cannstatter Volkfest Verein in the Northeast, which included District 12 athletic directors.

"We're not doing anything wrong, so why would you take [sports] away from us?" Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter athletic director Ben Brous said. "And that's the big issue, because this blanket statement worries our school."

Citing basketball as the chief concern because a few teams are able to "reload" with transfer students, Lombardi has proposed that charter school students compete at their neighborhood public schools if those schools offer that specific sport.

Various members of the committee, chaired by state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), repeatedly suggested that a legislative fix would not be forthcoming.

It was clear that charter school members felt threatened by Lombardi's proposal and the way it was put forward.

"What I think would have been more prudent," Imhotep Charter AD Andre Noble told Lombardi, "would have been for the PIAA or yourself to, if you see patterns that are inappropriate or that you deem a competitive advantage at certain schools, then have that conversation with those schools."

As a possible solution to curbing competitive imbalance, some in attendance inquired about making transfer rules more stringent. However, Lombardi said such a change would have to come from lawmakers, which does not seem to be in the offing. So, in the meantime, the sides must keep talking.

"Nobody is trying to put charter schools out of business," Lombardi said, responding to a question. "The point is to raise the awareness to get people to talk, so we can have an equitable solution here because we don't."

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