By Rob Todor
Here’s what we know about the public versus private debate among Ohio high schools:
A lot of people think something needs to be done. Finding a solution that a majority of them can agree on is like some athletic search for the Holy Grail.
For the second year in a row, a “competitive balance” initiative, proposed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, was narrowly voted down.
The final results — 339 against, 301 for — were almost identical to the 2011 balloting, which failed 332-303. The votes are submitted by the state’s 826 high school principals.
The initiative, had it passed, would have changed how schools are assigned to tournament divisions in the team sports of football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and volleyball.
Currently — and since the OHSAA split into classes more than 50 years ago — schools are assigned strictly by male and female enrollment. The proposal also would have taken into account factors such as whether a school has open enrollment, the number of its students on free and reduced lunch programs, and a tradition factor.
That tradition factor was far and away the most controversial aspect of the proposal. In the 2011 proposal, many felt that schools were penalized too harshly for past tournament success. The OHSAA tweaked the factor, and this year, it was believed not to have much of an affect at all.
“I knew the voting would be very, very close,” said Dr. Dan Ross, OHSAA Commissioner, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “I’m a little surprised [it failed].”
All but certain to come next is a proposal to have separate tournaments for public and non-public high schools. That proposal will come not from the OHSAA, but from the schools themselves. A group of superintendents in Wayne County have led a drive to separate the OHSAA, a proposal that has generated some support around the state.
If the group can generate the required signatures and have it submitted to the OHSAA by Dec. 1, it will be on the next referendum ballot in May 2013.
It’s a slippery slope and one Ross does not personally endorse.
“There is a coalition of people who support [separation] across the state,” Ross said. “They believe it is the right thing for them and their students.
“I guess we have to agree to disagree.”
Twice before the OHSAA held a vote to separate the schools. In 1978, the proposal was defeated by a 3-1 margin. In 1994 it was defeated 63 percent to 37.
“Separation of the tournament would be an extreme, hopefully we wouldn’t get there,” Ross said. “I’d like us to try to find a middle road. We just haven’t hit that place where more than 50 percent of our schools are comfortable.
“I truly believe it’s a wonderful system. Today’s vote indicates that 52 percent would like to stay where we are, 48 percent would like a change.”
Regardless of what happens, Ross said it’s an issue that won’t go away.
“There’s not ever going to be a system that’s perfect,” he said. “It’s a journey and not everyone’s going to be comfortable with any format.”