RICHMOND — A bill to reform the Virginia High School League, giving larger school districts a bigger say in reforms, has died in committee.
The VHSL executive board voted in 2012 to divide member schools into six divisions to make games fairer because smaller schools wouldn’t have to face larger schools. That redistricting, however, has cost some localities thousands of dollar — increasing the cost of going to games across the state and lower ticket sales because class rivalries were eliminated.
Background reports: VHSL redistricting rules
Del. Glenn Davis (R-84th District) proposed a bill that would prohibit public schools from being VHSL members unless schools get one vote for each student instead of one vote for each school.
Although HB 1415 tabled in the Education Committee for this session, Davis said, “Although the bill did not progress onto the floor of the House, I think a message was sent to the leadership of the VHSL, that they need to take in account the impact of their decisions on our school budgets. Specifically in Hampton roads, Chesapeake Public Schools alone had to drastically increase their budget for sports travel by $197,000 for the 2014-2015 school year, because of this realignment. It has forced school districts to re-prioritize their budgets.”
According to our partners at the Virginian Pilot, Chesapeake’s 2014-15 budget includes an item adding more than $197,000, in part to contracted transportation for VHSL events.
Delegate Davis is waiting to see if VHSL leadership will make any adjustments for the next school year.
Virginia Beach parent and attorney Kevin Martingayle is an avid supporter of the now tabled bill. He calls the House Committee vote unethical, saying the general public was never notified about the committee hearing, in which the bill was shot down. He has since vowed to take VHSL down.
“Sadly, after a lot of time and effort that people donated to trying to improve the way things are done on behalf of public school students, it looks like it’s dead for this General Assembly session and we’ll have to start over again next year. Given the behavior of the General Assembly, and given the lobbying efforts by the Virginia High School League, I’m not sure that this will ever be given fair consideration,” he said.
Martingayle says the problem is no longer to fix the voting issue within the VHSL, but to replace it.
“I don‘t think it makes any sense for a private organization that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that is not elected by the public, to be in charge of public school matters and public school competitions. This group is unaccountable and appears to be uncontrollable. So my solution for future legislation will be simply to replace the VHSL with a governmental body that is fully accountable and fully responsible to the public,“ he said.
VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley told 13News Now, “We are always looking at ways to improve the structure of our playoffs. That’s the case with the alignment and with our format for the playoffs. We have at least one proposal for a four-year alignment instead of a two-year alignment. There are other ideas that are being discussed, and we will continue to work toward improvements and ways to address the concerns that have been expressed.”
According to Tilley, that proposal will be looked at on the executive committee level, at a meeting next month. Other ideas will be discussed at a membership meeting in March.