High school athletics bill draws opposition

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Past concerns about recruiting players by high school teams is running square into the desire to foster school choice. A bill intended to open up public school sports programs to more kids who don’t go to public schools drew heavy debate Monday and opposition from organizations involved in scholastic athletics, who fear it may unintentionally open the door to more high school recruiting. One of the main thrusts of the bill (HB 1403) is to broaden the mechanism by which students at small independent and private schools can participate in interscholastic sports. Right now, some students – those at really small schools that are too little to even contemplate fielding many athletic teams, and which in fact don’t offer sports programs – can play on their zoned public school team while attending the private school. Homeschoolers can too. The bill would say that students at larger private schools could also play for their local public school. Another part of the bill changes the benefit of the doubt in cases in which a student changes schools within the school district in the middle of the school year to presume that the student wasn’t changing schools because he or she was recruited. Under current rules, students who change schools mid-year when their family hasn’t moved, must sit out at their new school for a period if there’s an accusation of recruiting. The bill changes it to allow students who transfer to continue to play. Officials with the Florida High School Athletic Association and the Florida Council of Independent Schools said the measure would increase recruiting of high school athletes by rival coaches. But the response shouldn’t be to punish the players, said the bill sponsor, Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. “I understand that recruiting is a big problem,” said Stargel. “But let the student play until you prove he’s been recruited.” The bill passed the committee and now goes to the Education Committee, its last stop before the floor.

Via The News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.