CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s high school coaches aren’t wild about parts of a comprehensive education bill that would include charter schools.
The West Virginia Schools Athletic Coaches Association issued a statement Sunday, claiming the Senate bill would give charter schools an unfair advantage over other public schools.
The coaches’ statement, which named the members of the association’s executive committee, repeats a contention made by others in public schools that charter schools would drain already-thin resources.
“The budgets of most public schools in [West Virginia] are already extremely tight,” the coaches wrote. “If charter schools can take money away from public education budgets, public school’s co-curricular activities and extracurricular activities will be the first options to be cut.”
The coaches fear that charter schools would be allowed to live by separate rules, rather than the state rules that are enforced by the Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
“Charter schools can make their own rules including deciding their academic courses, their class rigors or lack thereof, their school day, and their discipline policies,” the coaches wrote.
“All of these are very important pieces in deciding who can participate in WVSSAC sanctioned events. If we do not have consistent policies across the board, we will have chaos regarding who can participate from charter schools.”
The coaches expressed concern about charter schools recruiting athletes from their hometown schools.
“In recent years, our state has really clamped down on students transferring for athletic reasons and coaches illegally recruiting student athletes. If we introduce charter schools to our state, the transferring and recruiting for athletic purposes will explode,” the coaches wrote.
“Students will move to charter schools choosing to play for programs that are not in their home attendance zone. This does not promote the academic-based athletics that our students need to learn responsibility and discipline.”
Coaches took issue with a section of the bill that initially outlined that if charter schools don’t have an extracurricular activity offered by public schools, then charter students could take part in that activity at the public counterpart:
Participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as noncharter public schools: Provided, That a student is eligible to participate in an extracurricular activity at the noncharter public school located in his or her attendance zone if that extracurricular activity is not offered by the public charter school and the student complies with the same eligibility requirements as noncharter public school students.
That section was removed Friday as a result of an amendment by Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker.
The coaches association statement echoed concerns from Bernie Dolan, the executive director of the Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
“There are a couple of rules in here that will conflict with our current rules, and I just want to bring those to your attention,” Dolan testified before the Senate’s Committee of the Whole this week.
Prior to its removal from the bill, Dolan referenced the stipulation allowing charter students to participate on a nearby public school’s athletics team if that sport isn’t available at the charter.
“Currently in our member schools in the sports that we sponsor, you are not allowed to participate from one school to another,” Dolan said.
“For instance if you go to Charleston Catholic, they don’t offer football. When you go to Charleston Catholic you know you’re not going to play football. You’re not allowed to go to another school to participate.
“If we allow a student to leave Wheeling Park and go to a charter school and then have the opportunity to come back and play with that team, what does that say?” he said. “There’s going to be friction there. The school’s not good enough for you to go there, but we do want to come back and play basketball, football.”
Dolan said the rules, as written, would not encourage charter schools to field their own teams.
“If the charter schools open, and they have their own teams, we could play ’em,” he said. “They could be opponents of our schools. So we would encourage, if it does go, that they do have their own teams.”
Dolan also questioned a section of the bill about open enrollment between counties.
“Our current eligibility rules say, pick your school as a ninth-grader. We want you to pick. Go anywhere you want,” he said. “Visit the schools, but go to the school you want to go to. And we hope that you stay there for four years.”
The current rules allow for a one-time transfer between counties at the beginning of a school year.
“We want you to finish the school year so that you have some continuity and then you would be eligible back at your home school,” he said. “So we hope that as you look at that bill, you kind of keep that in mind.”