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Matzie Proposes Changes to PIAA Executive Board

Rep. Rob Matzie

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has been many things to many people in its 110 years of existence. Its original role was to place interscholastic athletics in the overall context of secondary education.

Now, a state representative wants to capitalize on a state Supreme Court ruling and make changes to the not-for-profit corporation.

Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver) wants to add permanent voting members to the organization’s 35-member Executive Board, including Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education and lawmakers from the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee that Matzie is the current vice-chair.

“The PIAA is a governmental entity,” Matzie said. “That was settled by the PA Supreme Court last week. It’s appropriate and necessary to bring accountability. Elected members of the legislature are tasked by the state Constitution to answer to and speak on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania. That includes, perhaps most importantly, our children and our schools and, by extension, those participating in junior and senior high sports.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week that the PIAA is subject to the state’s Right to Know law, as the organization takes tax dollars and money from 1,431 various public schools and some of the PIAA board members include representatives of member schools.

“The Supreme Court’s observations are informative in that they bring into focus PIAA’s substantial statewide control and expenditure of funds in connection with a matter of Commonwealth governance,” read the opinion.

“PIAA plays a vital role in managing an important aspect of the education of middle- and high-school students in Pennsylvania, and it does so through the use of powers derivative of those attendant to school officials acting in an official capacity as authorized under the Public School Code.

“PIAA fulfills that role ultimately through a board of directors largely consisting of school officials acting in their official capacities. Given this state of affairs, we ultimately conclude PIAA falls within the scope of the phrase ‘Commonwealth entity.’ And because PIAA is a Commonwealth entity, it comprises a ‘state-affiliated entity’ under the first part of the RTKL’s definition of that term without reference to the enumerated list of examples.”

Matzie seized on the ‘Commonwealth entity’ phrase to introduce his legislation.

“It has become clear to me that the PIAA, left to their own volition, does not possess the agility nor the wherewithal to adjust their policies to meet the ever-changing needs of student athletes and parents,” he wrote in his co-sponsorship memoranda. “That needs to change immediately.”

Matzie was among the most vehement objectors to the PIAA’s decision to move Aliquippa School District sports up in class to 5A from 4A, based in part on the school’s continued success, even though it has an enrollment that would normally put it down in the lowest class, 1A. The decision was based on the PIAA’s approved competition rules.

“This legislation has been in the works for some time, but I felt the time was now based on recent correspondence the PIAA sent on the premise of defending their indefensible competition formula. In reality, the correspondence was a hit job on one school, my school, Aliquippa. It’s abundantly clear that the PIAA would prefer to double down rather than work toward a better system. Their current system is not working, and their evaluation process is, frankly, lazy.”

The Athletic Oversight Committee comprises Matzie, Rep. Justin Fleming (D-Dauphin), Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton), Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster/Berks), Sen. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry) and Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-Philadelphia).


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