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Legislation Could Bar Student Athletes From Transferring Into Schools to Gain Athletic Advantage [POLL]

Sandra Mu Getty Images Sport
Sandra Mu Getty Images Sport

Were You a Student Athlete that transferred out of your home school to give your choice school an athletic advantage – and you, possibly a scholarship?

Well, under legislation proposed by one state assemblyman, that practice could be coming to an end – and rather quickly.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli of Paulsboro is drafting legislation that would require students attending a choice district to play in their sending district, unless the sending district school doesn’t offer the sport provided by the choice district.

Right now, as it stands, you can send your kid to school “X” if they have a better football program than the one your school your kid currently attends – assuming of course this is all being done to give your kid an educational advantage as well. Under the proposed legislation, that would come to an end, and your kid would – even though being sent to a “choice school” – would still have to play for his “sending school” – unless your school doesn’t offer football.

This is all being done in the guise of fairness – so as to not create sports “dynasties” from developing in certain “choice schools.”

Is this reasonable? Did you, perhaps as a student athlete, attend a school outside your district so that you and the school could achieve an athletic advantage?

According to this from mycentraljersey.com:

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, said he will introduce legislation later this month that requires students attending a choice district to play on teams in their sending district, unless their hometown school does not offer a sport the choice school provides.

The bill, if passed, could take effect as early as July 1, immediately dismantling juggernaut sports programs such as Bound Brook’s wrestling squad, which won last month’s NJSIAA Group I title using eight school choice starters in the semifinals and finals. Only one of those wrestlers is a senior.

“The purpose of (school choice) was to increase educational opportunities for students by giving their parents the ability to select a school that best suits their child’s needs,” reads a draft of Burzichelli’s legislation, a copy of which MyCentralJersey.com obtained.

“However, the law has had the unintended consequence of allowing certain scholastic sports teams to achieve dominance by eliminating the competitive balance between schools. Requiring choice district students to participate on the sports teams of their sending districts will help restore a competitive balance among the schools.”

Bob Rossi, Athletics Director at Hunterdon Central, which is a choice school, said he believes Burzichelli’s legislation may not be the appropriate response to what he believes are isolated incidents of scholastic sports teams benefitting from school choice.

“Now you are going to hurt all these kids,” Rossi said. “That, to me, makes no sense.”

Burzichelli said he believed measures must be taken now to prevent a proliferation of sports powers through school choice.

Recently retired Perth Amboy Athletics Director Gregg Ficarra said even though he had “suspicions” of impropriety, he essentially “waved a white flag” by signing transfer waivers for his school’s student-athletes to attend a choice district, noting he lacked the resources to prove a rules violation and that he felt uncomfortable “putting the kid or his family on any kind of trial.”

“Academically, the choice school program makes sense. I’m all for parents having the ability to offer the best education for their children, but like a lot of other rules that were intended for good, a lot of people use them to their advantage, in this case to bolster their athletic programs.”

All of Bound Brook’s choice school transfers, including those students who are not athletes, are enrolled in the school’s engineering or biomedical academies, the latter of which is unique in New Jersey.

The state pays tuition for choice school students, who must reside within a 20-mile radius of the choice school. The home district pays for or provides transportation to the choice school. Choice school seats are limited. When the number of applicants exceeds availability, lotteries are conducted.

Burzichelli said school choice does not take a classroom seat away from an in-district student, but that it can take away a roster spot on a team or a prominent position in another extra-curricular activity, such as a lead role in a school play. For that reason, Burzichelli, said he will consider expanding his legislation to pertain to all extra-curricular activities, not just athletics.

Rossi said he believed choice school students should be entitled to partake in all of the activities and services a choice school provides, adding that he believed those extra-curricular activities are part of what makes a choice school attractive.

The legislation is interesting because the reason why one is given the opportunity to transfer to a given school is for the EDUCATIONAL advantage the choice school provides –not the athletic advantage.

So, in that case, Burzichelli’s legislation is well intentioned. However, since Burzichelli was mayor of Paulsboro, does he have a vested interest in seeing certain choice schools from becoming dynasties at the expense of his hometown Paulsboro HS?

One wonders.

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