Out of Bounds

The Arizona Legislature drops the ball.

A lot is being made of the new, "moderate" band of lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature. Why, just last week, the alleged middle-of-the-roaders voted to strike down Arizona's decades-old sex laws, which, among other things, made it illegal to cohabitate. This move will now give a tax break to people who live in the same house and screw, but don't actually care enough about each other to get married. Alas, other pending bills are less far-sighted.

Less than a year after the Arizona Interscholastic Association brought sanity and reason to the formerly out-of-control situation of athletic transfers among high school students, Senate Republicans are attempting to pry the nails off the lid of Pandora's Box and let the demons loose again. And, lying through their teeth, they claim that they're doing so in the name of "freedom," when in fact it's just the latest salvo in the legislative agenda known as P.O.P.S.--Piss On the Public Schools.

Unfortunately, these days for some kids (and, more often than not, their parents), it's not enough to go to the local school, try out for the team(s), win some, lose some, make a few new friends and maybe garner some great memories. No, today, for a selfish and destructive few, high school sports have to be a ticket to the Big Time. College scholarships, a chance at the pros, your name in USA Today.

Case in point: UA basketball recruit Dennis Latimore, who will be joining the Wildcats next season, transferred from Kansas to Mesa (AZ) Mountain View High his sophomore year under questionable circumstances. He transferred in, helped lead the Toros to the Class 5A state championship, then moved back to Kansas a couple weeks after the end of the season. This will forever after be known as the Mesa Mountain View Rent-A-Negro Program.

The transferring frenzy got so bad, it was like a Chinese fire drill. Kids bouncing around from one school to another, and then, quite often, back to their original school when things didn't work out to their complete satisfaction at the new place. It got so bad that in the 1999-2000 school year, more than 900 kids transferred in the state, strictly for athletic purposes.

When new AIA head Harold Slemmer took over last spring, the first item on the agenda was to stop the madness of transferring solely for greener athletic pastures. He put together a common-sense proposal under which transferring students would have to sit out a year of sports if their family didn't move into the new school's boundary area. (The rule also allows transfers under certain "hardship" guidelines.) The new rule passed by a 36-3 vote of the board of school representatives and was hailed by administrators and coaches throughout the state.

The new system is simple and easy to understand. It has cut down on 90 percent of the nonsense. This past year, 112 hardship appeals were heard and nearly half were okayed. But the rest of the crap was eliminated and everybody has benefited from the stability.

But the morons in the state Senate, realizing that it's been months since they screwed something up really badly, saw a situation that had been broken, then got fixed, so they decided to break it again. And to make it even better, it's obviously a situation about which they know absolutely nothing.

These are the same clowns who try to apply their barely-functional understanding of economics to an area that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject. They're the Voucher Idiots who seek to apply free-market principles to something that is nothing less than a sacred public trust.

I have friends who dog me for caring (and writing) about high schools sports. I'm sorry, but I see it as the final battleground for fair play and sportsmanship. The pro leagues are a giant cesspool of greed and underachievement. The colleges have been tainted by lawbreakers and educational shirkers, as well as by the image of the big-money tail wagging the dog. Youth sports are in the toilet, having been put there by the shameful actions of self-serving parents and know-nothing "coaches" who have completely distorted the mission of sports and are in the process of ruining things for an entire generation of kids.

High school is all that's left. While not perfect, high school coaches are at least trained in what they're doing. They work long hours for very little pay in hopes of teaching a few skills, winning a few games, and perhaps passing along some valuable life lessons to the kids.

But now the Senate wants to mess that up, too. Under the proposed legislation, the AIA would lose its ability to monitor and police transfers. Kids will be allowed to play football at Amphi, basketball at Sahuaro, and baseball at Foothills if Rich Daddy wants them to.

The Senate also wants to lift minimum requirements (as in accreditation by the North Central Association) for belonging to the AIA. This means that you can open your own little Arizona Prep Hoops Academy in an abandoned storefront, use the charter school money the state gives you (and apparently doesn't monitor) to buy some players and compete against real schools. Who cares that your kids can't spell; the charter school "system" is such a favorite of the haters on the right wing, nobody will check, anyway. As long as they can pick on the public schools, everything's fine.

This bill is a disaster waiting to happen. I hope it doesn't pass the Legislature, and if it does, I pray that Governor Hull continues to surprise me by standing up for the kids and vetoing the measure. And if the bill becomes law and the inevitable chaos breaks out, I hope that those responsible suffer dearly. I hope they're all booted out of office like their cohorts who dumped the Alt-Fuels tax burden on us.

That was only about money; this is far more important.

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