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Charter school basketball — stop being so competitive!

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The Indiana General Assembly in 2001 passed legislation allowing local school districts to create charter schools with the idea they would expand students’ opportunity and provide competition. In Indiana, that has worked spectacularly well — for basketball stars.

As it turns out, a charter school that can draw students from anywhere in the district can put a pretty damn good basketball team together if it puts its mind to it. In a state still reeling from the death of its beloved, storied single-class tournament in after the 1997 season, the idea that public high school teams are not grown organically in rigid district lines is making some Hoosiers Hysterical.

Actually, thanks to the four-class format that small schools tired of getting their asses kicked year after year since the Milan Miracle (the 1954 title run that was the inspiration for the movie, “Hoosiers”), charter schools can turn themselves into instant championship contenders in lower classes, thus getting those coaches to talk about charter schools in the same derogatory tone once received for private schools.

For example, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary hired an AAU coach, had AAU stars from the city enroll in the sixth or seventh grade, and now watches the magic happen as the rest of the city’s high schools are now drained of talent.

Indianapolis’ new Herron charter high school, which has an arts curriculum as a nod to its location in the former building for IUPUI’s art school, in August hired another AAU coach, Sherron Wilkerson, well-known in the state for losing his Mr. Basketball title in a playing-time snit and his Indiana University roster spot after being arrsted for beating his girlfriend. Of course, one NCAA Division I signee has already transfered from a noncharter high school. Meanwhile, Indianapolis’ mayor has blocked formation of a proposed sports-themed charter school because, well, it would be too much competition for other schools.

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“THIS is your team. That’s because Jimmy Chitwood and anybody else who could play worth a damn transferred to Terhune Charter Academy.”

From The Indianapolis Star:

Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Blake Ress said charter schools have created an “odd scenario” in that they operate as public schools without district boundaries.

Because of that, he agrees there is reason to be concerned, but the association is at a loss for how to prevent it from happening.

“If students enroll at charter schools as ninth-graders,” Ress said, “there is not a whole lot the IHSAA can do unless there is blatant recruiting and undue influence that has occurred.

“The potential is there for a charter school to create imbalance because you draw from anywhere and (students) can go there without paying tuition. There’s a wide pool of talent to choose from, and (charter schools) have access to it.”

By the way, this worry has cropped up in other states, and even was an issue in Indiana in the 1950s. After the Oscar Robertson-led Indianapolis Crispus Attucks team won consecutive state titles (back in the halcyon single-class days) in 1955-56, all of a sudden there was a lot of squawking about how some of those players should have been on other city teams because of where they lived.

Of course, at the time the Indianapolis Public Schools’ segregationists policies stuffed the black kids at Attucks, policies that were undone post-Oscar. You might say Attucks was sort of a charter school before its time. And it now can draw any Indianapolis student again — after being closed and then reopened as a junior high, the school is now Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, though there is no sign another Oscar Robertson is on the way.

Charter schools, being criticized for providing too much opportunity and being competitive. Ironic, ain’t it?

Written by rkcookjr

October 2, 2009 at 1:08 am