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Whining about private schools is a tired topic

By Jack Bogaczyk

The 97th annual boys basketball State Tournament tips off this morning -- the 41st at the Charleston Civic Center, if you're counting -- and one thing about the atmosphere remains recently consistent and disturbing.

It's the public versus private high school rancor and rhetoric, and this time, I'm not just talking about four Class A quarterfinals today that feature such emotion-stirring bracketing.

The timing of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 81 is as odious as the proposed study originating in the state Senate Education Committee is odiferous legislation.

That means it stinks.

If you're not familiar with this latest public school-rooted proposal to make private school athletic competition separate (or separate and unequal), well, let's just say it is a tired subject that's anything but original, but it is somewhat venomous.

It was brought into the state Capitol last week in the waning days of the Legislature and presented to the Senate Education Committee by Sissonville girls soccer Coach Ali Sadeghian.

The word got out among all of the busy-ness in the Legislature's final days because when Sadeghian made his presentation, someone with Charleston Catholic High interests was present.

Whoops.

Usually, it's left to a Class A public school basketball coach or two to get into this, given the soapbox after what it usually a State Tournament loss. I predict we'll hear it again once or twice in postgame interviews today, too.

Anyway, the resolution drawn up after Sadeghian's Education Committee visit wants the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study methods of improving the fairness of competition between public and non-public schools in West Virginia - with the study to be funded by legislative appropriations to that committee.

That's your tax dollars, folks.

Besides, this matter isn't for the Senate and House of Delegates to lob back and forth. It's an SSAC matter, if a matter at all.

I'm stunned 11 senators put their name on SCR 81, especially Erik Wells of Kanawha County, who has been nothing but a champion for charter schools, which, shall I say, are another form of "alternative education," sort of like private schools.

And doesn't the Senate Education Committee have more important matters with which to deal than school athletics, i.e. extracurricular activities?

What about the 180-day minimum that few counties reach because of snow days (and bogus field trips to Disney on Ice and West Virginia Power ballgames)?

What about the Mountain State's poor standing nationally in public education?

What about the forever volleying with teacher's unions over pay, workload, etc.?

If this resolution ever even makes it out of committee, if a dime is wasted on a study, it's ridiculous and the Private-Prohibition 11, as I will call those senators, should be ashamed.

What this is all about is someone feels a private school has an unfair advantage in competition because it can draw athletes - no one worries about chemistry class and yearbook staff competition, I guess - from an undefined area.

There's also the sidebar to this issue, which is recruiting and out-of-district school choice.

Well, if the public school coaches are worried about that, look in the mirror, and look no further than Kanawha County and the City of Charleston, where plenty of athletes are playing for a school team other than in the district in which they live.

When the Daily Mail's Derek Taylor broke this story in Monday's paper, he reported that Sadeghian's team lost to Catholic in the regional finals this past season, and the veteran coach has been outspoken about the fact that CCHS junior soccer star Emily Blake lives in the Sissonville school district.

Well, let's consider that further, even beyond the fact that Sissonville's SSAC classification enrollment is 482 in Class AA and Catholic's in Class A is 199, so one soccer player shouldn't make that big of a difference, unless we're talking Mia Hamm.

I assume Blake's parents pay state and local taxes, some of which go to Sissonville High. They also pay tuition for Blake and her brother to attend Catholic schools in Charleston. On top of that, the family is of the Catholic faith, and worships at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, I am told.

That's their choice ... and not that they need an excuse to send their children to school where they and their children want.

Sadeghian apparently has had a burr in his saddle about this for a while.

You can check into schedules and recent past results, and it seems Sissonville and Charleston Catholic must have a pretty good relationship otherwise, because they play in baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball, girls basketball, boys soccer, just about every sport but not girls soccer.

OK, full disclosure here. For 12 years I attended Catholic grade and high schools in the Covington, Ky., area more than 40 years ago. Way back then, public schools said my high school recruited. It didn't happen, but when someone who could have gone to our school decided to cross the Ohio River and attend Catholic schools in Cincinnati, none of us whined. That was their choice.

We played with who we had. We won. We lost. Were there some players who were Catholic who chose to go to public schools that we wish we would have had, that might have helped us win a few games more? Sure.

The state Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 81, the outgrowth of Sadeghian's trip to take part of government in action, should be no more than two sheets of paper and the sourpuss attitude with which it was delivered.

For any committee of the state Senate to even consider it is a waste of their time and your money.

For Sens. Browning, Plymale, Wells, Beach, Edgell, Foster, Laird, Stollings, Tucker, Unger and Boley to put their sponsoring names on it makes me wonder if they even read it.

Public versus private in high school athletics isn't going to go away in West Virginia or anywhere else. It's part of competition. It's what makes us better, not supposedly bitter.

It's not unfair. It's life. Deal with it.

Enjoy the State Tournament. Cheer for a lot of great kids and your team, whether it's private, public, or you're not sure which.

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949. 


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