There’s a lot of debate, not just in Washington, but across the country, about how to classify private high schools when it comes to athletic competition.
It would seem — and not without plenty of evidence — that private schools are at a massive advantage when competing with public schools.
Different states have addressed the issue in their own ways. On one end of the spectrum, Washington and Oregon have lumped all public and private schools together. A private school with 200 students is treated the same as a public school with 200 students.
On the other end are some of the states on the East Coast, where public schools and private schools are completely cordoned off from one another. They play in separate leagues and play for their own state championships.
The “unfair” advantages private schools have are numerous.
The parents of private-school children typically have more money. They can afford to pay for private lessons and better equipment for their student-athletes. They can also raise more money to pay for better coaches and facilities at their schools.
Private schools don’t play by quite the same rules as public schools either. They aren’t restricted to district boundaries the way public schools are. They don’t have to follow the same grading or eligibility policies. They can offer scholarships, enticing perhaps a gifted pitcher from a poor socioeconomic upbringing with a great education, a safer environment and the chance to play for a state championship.
Many people in Washington would like to see private schools stick to themselves and play in their own leagues.
I am not one of those people.
I’m a believer that high school’s importance in life is preparing young people for their adult lives.
This cannot be accomplished by giving them the excuse that the playing field was unfair.
As many parents have told many children over the years: Life is unfair.
High school athletics are not the only place students of public schools have to compete with those of private schools. They’ll be competing for admission into the best universities, roster spots on collegiate teams and jobs.
After high school, nobody cares that so-and-so had things easier because they went to a private high school. And things will continue to be easier for those private-school students.
Most of them won’t know what it’s like to work a full-time job in order to put themselves through college. Most of them won’t know about riding the bus, pinching pennies or student loans. Sometimes, it’s not about what you know, but who you know and after college, rich parents often have the contacts to help set their children on the path for a better career.
Competing against private schools is a tough challenge for public schools.
But taking the mentality that “it’s unfair” sets student-athletes up to use that excuse the rest of their lives.
Garrett Rudolph is the managing editor of The Chronicle.
He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email