Schools that get a significant number of their students from outside their district boundaries could find themselves competing in higher classifications beginning in 2014-15 if a proposal before the Georgia High School Association is passed next week.
The plan, submitted by Lovett, would affect private schools but also public city schools such as sports powers Buford, Gainesville, Cartersville and Calhoun. Also at risk of getting bumped in class are magnet, charter and open-enrollment schools that are more common in larger school systems such as Cobb, DeKalb, Atlanta, Bibb and Muscogee.
The chances of the proposal passing is perhaps unlikely. GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin calls it impractical to force every school to compile those statistics on their student bodies.
But the proposal remains significant in that a private school is willing to revisit a multiplier after the public-private split in Class A this academic year. It also underscores the growing concern from private and public schools alike over a perceived competitive advantages by public schools that are not bound by their district lines.
City schools Buford, Gainesville and Jefferson won football state titles in 2012. Those schools allow students outside their districts to attend by application. Other city schools include Bremen, Carrollton, Commerce, Dalton, Decatur, Dublin, Marietta, Rome, Thomasville and Valdosta.
The GHSA puts its more than 400 member schools in six classifications based on enrollment. What Lovett is proposing is a multiplier of 1.35 on every student (athlete or not) that does not live in the school district of a public school or the service area of a private school. In the case of a private school, a service area (county) is used instead of a school district boundary.
Lovett athletics director Steve Franks declined to comment on the objective or benefits of the proposal. “Since this proposal is now in the hands of the GHSA executive committee, I do not think it is appropriate for me to discuss this proposal or any issues related to it prior to the GHSA meeting,’’ Franks said.
It’s unclear how a multiplier of 1.35 that applies only to students outside the school zone would be very significant. A school of 1,000 students, 200 of them living outside the school zone, would count as 1,070 instead of 1,000. Such a small difference usually would not bump a school into a higher classification.
The GHSA used an enrollment multiplier of 1.5 for every student in a private school from 2000-01 through 2007-08. Private schools won the battle to overturn and eliminate the multiplier, but the controversy over a level playing field has persisted. Small public schools threatened to leave the GHSA a year ago and forced the GHSA into separating public and private schools in Class A.
Since the multiplier could put his own school in a higher classification, Franks can’t be accused of taking aim only at successful public schools.
But at the GHSA, Swearngin isn’t sold.
‘’Every school would have to compute who lives in the district and who doesn’t,’’ Swearngin said, “and then we [the GHSA] are bound by the honor code – we either trust [the numbers] or we don’t. It just seems impractical in many ways.’’
The GHSA’s executive committee meets April 14-15 in Macon.