Mum was the word when it came to transfer talk during the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board meeting on Monday. Amidst a flurry of off-the-field activities and issues, the issue wasn’t really discussed, instead being workshopped and further explored through August, likely to be discussed in the August meeting and possibly have a resolute decision one way or another come late September.
The impetus behind these talks — and it’s easy to believe some kind of stricter legislation will ultimately be passed — was that the AIA responded to waves of allegations that kids, parents and a few schools in Arizona weren’t heeding the current change of domicile bylaws. It started discussions this spring on making athletes ineligible for a year if he or she moves within a 50-mile radius to a different public school from their original domicile.
It’d be a huge deal.
This stems from years of a few elite high school athletes moving from one school to another, most to a nearby school (within 10-15 miles), but a couple have gone a bit further away. It also stems from the vast majority of these kids and parents who never become elite athletes or see the public spotlight. They’re not heard about, talked about or read about.
What is sure to become heard, read and talked about is the obvious “good-or-bad” dilemma of beefing up restrictions on kids and parents shopping themselves around beyond the state’s open enrollment policy (which isn’t going anywhere). Many think it’s undoubtedly necessary. Others think it’s not worth the effort and energy to try and stop families from moving around; let ‘em go to school and play sports wherever they want.
Free-for-all doesn’t fly here. It’s necessary to further crack the whip on this rampant re-locating. But what’s going to be fascinating fodder around these late-summer, early-fall proposals and discussions, will be two-fold: What’s the final radial-mileage figure (50 miles is on the table but is a floating number) and what would an appeal process involve?
The 50-mile figure was brought forth because it pretty much covers Maricopa County (the most populated in the state). It’s also hard to imagine many kids and parents moving from one school to another strictly for athletic or extracurricular activity reasons — which is supposed to be noted as the reason for a transfer by each school on the current 520 transfer form but almost never is — moving from, say, Peoria to Gilbert.
Those longer distance moves often happen because of a change family or job situations (gained, lost or transferred), and that ties into both the mileage factor and appeal process.
Within the crowded, close quarters of the Valley, most athletic-fueled transfers seem to fall into a range of two-to-15 miles between schools of choice, so should a kid sit out if a job change or family situation moves him or her from Peoria Centennial to Desert Mountain? Or from Basha to Pinnacle? Or from Highland to Mountain Pointe? A majority of the publicity and scrutiny has involved the Chandler and Scottsdale districts’ schools, and those are all within 15 miles of one another within the respective district.
Is 50 the right number? Or is that too far-reaching?
Much of this is also tied into a “hardship” appeals process, which rightfully should be part of any new legislation.
If a parent is transferred or lands a better job in which moving from Mesa to Ahwatukee will be a bigger benefit to the family or quality of life, will that be good enough? As one athletic director noted: “Are we going to punish kids for parents’ job success?”
In other words, though every single case is different and should be judged on its own, what will establish a standard or loose precedent for a successful appeal?
This won’t be perfect, or even close. But the reality of these proposed rules and guidelines brings with it a slew of caveats, and debates which have raged on for years won’t stop now, and it’s going to get fiery as summer rolls into fall and legislation becomes a reality.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.