The irony: Bills trying to make transferring easier has made it tougher
When Kelli Stargel and other state legislators passed the controversial House Bill 1403 last year, one goal was to make it easier for high school students to transfer without losing athletic eligibility.
The irony: A year later (in some school districts), that task is becoming tougher, not easier.
The Pasco School Board is considering a policy that would have student-athletes sit out from sports for a year if they transfer schools, unless their families move, the district reassigns them to a new school through no fault of their own or they experience other hardships. A committee would have to approve their eligibility.
That idea, which could come up again at next week’s board meeting, is based on a Hillsborough County’s policy. And that, the Times’ Marlene Sokol wrote this weekend, has slashed the number of transfers considerably. At this time last spring, Sokol reported, one school had 27 transfers. Through four months of the new policy, Hillsborough has heard 49 cases across the district.
Both policies were proposed after 1403 became law in July. Critics feared the bill could lead to high school free agency by restricting the Florida High School Athletic Association’s rules on regulating transfers. That’s why districts are taking action – to prevent players from changing schools for purely athletic reasons. School officials argue that switching schools because of sports goes against the purpose of high school athletics.
I imagine Stargel and some other FHSAA critics won’t mind the restrictions too much. School boards are locally elected to serve a specific community. If constituents there don’t like the policy, the argument goes, it’s easier for them to change a local procedure than an FHSAA one. Plus every county is different, with different levels of transiency and different needs, so maybe a one-size-fits-all policy isn’t right.
In Pasco County, the goal isn’t to eliminate transfers, even those done for athletic reasons. The hope is that the threat of sitting out of sports for a year causes students and their families to pause and think about why they’re transferring. If it still sounds like a good idea, even with a year on the sidelines, then switching schools is probably the right move, regardless of the outcome. If it seems too risky, then maybe the transfer wasn’t being done for the right reasons.
No matter what happens, at least two districts in Tampa Bay seem set on making it tougher to transfer because of sports. Not exactly what Stargel and the state legislators hoped would happen.