NJSIAA examining effects of school choice

Posted: June 07, 2014

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - The NJSIAA is working with the state Department of Education to evaluate the impact of the school-choice program on sports, according to NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko.

Timko said Wednesday at the organization's last meeting of the school year that the NJSIAA is trying to gather as "much data as possible" before devising a strategy for addressing an issue that some school officials believe has threatened the competitive balance in public-school sports.

New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D., Gloucester) has introduced a bill that would require that choice students play sports for their sending districts. But there has been no impetus to move the bill through the legislature until the NJSIAA and Department of Education address the matter, said Paul Anzano, an attorney who serves as the NJSIAA's liaison with the state legislature.

"We want to see if there's a problem and how severe of a problem it is," said Stephen Goodell, the NJSIAA's legal counsel.

Under the state's school-choice program, students may attend schools outside their district with no tuition cost. About two dozen South Jersey high schools are choice schools.

Burzichelli said in April that he introduced the bill after reading media reports about the Bound Brook wrestling team, which won the Group 1 state title with eight school-choice students in the starting lineup.

Goodell said that NJSIAA officials have heard "anecdotally" of some sports programs taking advantage of the school-choice program to attract athletes but that the officials want to gather more "raw data" before taking any steps.

"What we'd like is to have a system that enables school-choice students to take full advantage of their opportunities but also make schools feel comfortable that no other schools are taking advantage of the system for competitive purposes," Goodell said.

Money talk. The NJSIAA's financial situation continues to improve after a winter in which the organization made $275,251 from its tournaments, compared to $161,798 in the winter of 2013.

The wrestling tournament made $118,138, thanks in large part to the change in 2013 in which host schools assumed financial responsibility for the 32 district tournaments.

In a change in 2014, host schools assumed financial responsibility for the first three rounds of the boys' and girls' basketball tournaments. The NJSIAA made $82,220 from the boys' basketball tournament and $44,142 from the girls' basketball tournament.

"We've tried to be creative in finding ways to cut expenditures," Timko said.

Swim change. The executive committee approved on second reading a recommendation from the swimming committee to create a Group C in the public-school boys' and girls' state tournaments.

The change will take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

"We felt like it was a chance to provide more opportunities for student athletes," said NJSIAA director Kim DeGraw-Cole, who oversees swimming for the organization.

This and that. Kingsway athletic director Joe Galliera, a longtime member of the executive committee, was honored by the organization for his service. Galliera will retire after the school year but hopes to stay involved in sports, perhaps as an assistant baseball coach. . . . The boys' and girls' lacrosse seasons will start March 25 after a one-year waiver for the early start date was made permanent by the executive committee. . . . The NJSIAA will enter into a 10th year of a contract with Drug Free Sports for testing for steroids and other banned substances.


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