State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, filed a bill Wednesday that if passed would re-form a Georgia High School Association oversight committee within the General Assembly.
Peake said last week he jump-started the idea of re-forming the committee -- which was chaired by state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, -- after the GHSA executive committee voted to split Class A public and private schools during state playoff tournaments.
Tom Rice, R-Norcross, Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, Steve Davis, R-McDonough and Martin were listed as co-sponsors of the bill.
Peake called the decision a slippery slope, and said he was concerned about the GHSA’s direction. He said splitting up schools during the playoffs “doesn’t make sense” and many private schools compete in the GHSA to face both public and private schools. Peake’s children attended First Presbyterian Day School, a private school in Macon that joined the GHSA in 2010.
He said there are legislators who are interested in looking into how the GHSA executive committee operates and makes decisions and said they wanted to see if the association made decisions and took votes with transparency. He said while the GHSA remains a private institution, it makes decisions that affect every public school in Georgia.
“There are at least a dozen legislators who feel like we should exert some influence and oversight with the GHSA,” Peake said.
The bill states the committee, “shall evaluate the performance of high school athletic associations consistent with the following criteria: 1) Fairness and equity in establishing and implementing its standards, and 2) The promotion of academic achievement and good sportsmanship.”
Peake isn’t sure how fast this committee can be mobilized. The bill, House Bill 809, must pass through the Senate and the House of Representatives first and then be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. He said interest from the governor or influential lawmakers could expedite the process.
The bill calls for the formation a committee including five members of the House, five members of the Senate, the chairperson of the House Committee on Education or his or her designee and the chairperson of the Senate Education and Youth Committee or his or her designee.
GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said he anticipated some kind of action from the General Assembly following the controversial vote to split public and private schools. He said both public schools and private schools have supporters in the legislature, and that action likely would have come regardless of the executive committee’s vote.
Swearngin said he had mixed feelings about the bill. He said the GHSA had no negatives from the last interaction with the oversight committee.
“But I have concern that a private organization is getting this level of scrutiny,” he said. “We aren’t trying to hide anything.”
Martin recently said the GHSA oversight committee worked a few years back on an issue regarding eligibility of athletes who play in all-star games. He said former Irwin County football standout Justin Anderson ran the risk of being ineligible for basketball if he participated in a national all-star football game.
The committee wanted to ensure Anderson wouldn’t have to choose between playing basketball and getting the opportunity to play in a high-profile all-star game, Martin said.
“Some of their more senior members got up in arms and thought we were meddling,” said Martin, whose son attended Milton, a public school in north Fulton County.
Telegraph writer Maggie Lee contributed to this report.