A local lawmaker unveiled a new piece of legislation this morning which he believes would help ensure more fairness in high school sports.
State Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence)- was in Harrisburg unveiling the “Parity in Interscholastic Athletics Act.”
Bernstine’s bill would separate public and private schools, and create separate brackets for high school sports playoffs in Pennsylvania.
The bill would specifically change the athletic playoff structure governed by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to include a public and nonpublic school champion in team sports facing competitive balance challenges. The two state champions would then meet for a final championship.
The new playoff structure would apply to football, baseball, softball, girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and girls’ and boys’ soccer.
Bernstine said that the path to reaching a legislative compromise was not a quick or easy one, but it was important to have an open dialogue with both sides working together.
“This is the first time in 40 years that both sides have sat down in a non-adversarial setting to resolve these challenges and understand each other’s goals,” Bernstine said. “At the end of the day, everyone was focused on making sure the end result was in the best interest of the students both athletically and academically.”
In addition to separate playoff brackets, House Bill 1600 would also make the following changes:
- Eliminate the transfer rule, making a student immediately eligible to play after transferring schools if he or she meets all other eligibility standards. In-season transfer eligibility would be restricted with exceptions granted for certain extenuating circumstances.
- Disqualify a team for PIAA playoffs if it forfeits two or more regular-season games in one season.
- Allow for separate playoff brackets to be used in additional team sports if there are at least 50 public schools and 50 nonpublic schools participating in the sport.
- Increase fairness in the PIAA’s district committees to ensure each district accurately reflects the makeup of schools in that given area.
Act 219 of 1972 amended the Public School Code to allow nonpublic schools to be members of the PIAA, which led to the current combined playoff structure.
Bernstine says he has received support on the bill from both public and nonpublic school leaders.