The South Carolina High School League Executive Committee Wednesday approved a competitive balance proposal to apply a “multiplier-times-three” for every out-of-attendance zone student to each member school’s attendance count in its upcoming realignment plan.
The vote was approved 12-4. The final motion for this particular plan was made by Spartanburg District Four Superintendent Dr. Rallie Liston, a member of the Executive Committee.
The new plan is one that’s been used recently in Georgia and a multiplier of some kind is currently in use in multiple states.
“It is going to be more fair than what it currently is,” Liston said.. “It’s not going to be perfect but it’s going to give students across the state a fairer chance to play for a state championship.”
“I think it actually encourages play among charter, private, and public schools as it’s about a level playing field,” Liston added. “We know that it has a chance to make it fairer for every child.”
Liston notes that once schools are realigned (early next year to begin with the ’24-’25 school year) their appeals will be heard (as is typical procedure), likely eventually landing with the Executive Committee. He anticipates a number of appeals.
The move is designed to alleviate concerns expressed, primarily, by public schools on the 2A and 1A levels, whose complaints became louder in recent years relative to what was implied as an unfair playing field, with the implication that they were competing against private and charter schools who can recruit their athletes from outside of their respective attendance zones.
In some cases, there are examples of public schools in multi-school districts doing likewise.
What today’s ruling means is:
-If a league school (private, charter, or public) enrolls a student from outside of its attendance zone, that student now counts as three students. This will happen regardless if a district has an open enrollment policy or multiple schools within its district.
-It will likely mean that private and charter schools playing on the 1A or 2A levels currently will be moved up at least one level, and possibly two, in the SCHSL’s upcoming realignment as their enrollment numbers have included students from outside of their attendance zones over the years.
Public schools, like magnet schools or those in counties with open enrollment policies, could also see their numbers rise and, thus, could also be moved up in classification.
Obviously, a 5A school with a number of students attending from outside of their attendance zone will not be impacted as they can not be moved to a larger classification.
Potentially, public schools could be moved down in classification if their enrollment numbers aren’t impacted by the multiplier, while others on smaller levels, whose numbers are impacted by the multiplier, move up.
The SCHSL re-aligns its five classifications every two years. That process is in its formative stages for the plan to be put in place for 2024-2026 but this information will obviously impact which schools move to which level.
What could this potentially mean for the upcoming realignment?
“It’s still very much up in the air,” said T.L. Hanna athletic director, and SCHSL realignment committee member, Tommy Bell. “No one truly knows where the enrollment numbers are going to fall. There are a lot of people who are willing to look at the realignment process.
“It’s going to be an uncomfortable few weeks with not knowing how the enrollment numbers are going to shake out. I think it’s good for our committee that there are people out there that are going to be open-minded about realignment, Bell added.”
Bell says discussions will continue among committee members ahead of its next meeting November 27th. Hel hopes that the final recommendation on how the SCHSL staff should proceed comes from that meeting.
The realignment committee sets the guidelines for how the SCHSL staff will breakdown realignment.
The SCHSL office receives enrollment figures for the first 45 days of the school year as part of the process every two years ahead of a new realignment. The realignment committee is not provided with the specific enrollment numbers and simply provides guidance on what the next realignment should look like.
The league office will now additionally request that its membership of roughly 220 high schools reports its out-of- zone enrollment numbers and will factor those into the new realignment enrollment numbers.
“We won’t know the answer to how this will (actually) level the playing field until we get the numbers,” said SCHSL Commissioner Jerome Singleton.
“The beauty of this is that if further adjustments need to be made they can be dealt with in two years (when realignment happens again),” Singleton added. “Everyone has the same opportunity to be impacted, it’s being applied equally across the board.”
“This is best for moving us in the direction of what is fairest for all children,” Liston added.
As per procedure, schools are able to appeal their classification assignment once the initial realignment plan is revealed, which should happen within the first few months of 2024.