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Okla. Approves Changes to Public-Private Sports Classes

School sports teams in Oklahoma may wind up in new classifications this coming fall based on their recent success, thanks to a rule approved this week by the state's high schools.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association announced on Tuesday that the state's high schools voted 265-49 in favor of the proposal, which will take effect July 1.

As I covered last week, the new rule changes the way that schools get assigned to classes, in an attempt to reduce perceived inequities between public school and private school sports teams. Under the new rule, schools are eligible to move up a class if they meet three of the following criteria: having selective enrollment, being within a 15-mile radius of a Class 5A or 6A school, having less than 25 percent of students on free or reduced-price lunch, or having enrollment increase by at least 50 percent in the past three years.

Assuming a school's team meets three of those criteria, the team's recent athletic success will be the final determining factor as to whether it can move up a classification. The team must have finished in the top eight teams in the state in at least three of the previous five years.

Long story short, certain private schools in the state should expect to move up a class in the next few months. And for every private school that moves up a classification, a corresponding public school will move down a classification.

The passage of this new rule doesn't necessarily mean the public-private debate is over. The Tulsa World reports that the president of Bishop Kelley High School had spoken with other private schools about the new rule and had explored taking legal action, although he said the lawsuit wouldn't come from Bishop Kelley.

"We knew this was coming," O'Brien said, "but we're still not happy about it. ... It seems like every time we've done something, we've made some rule to try to even the playing field, and then that hasn't been enough. Is this going to be enough?"

Interestingly enough, as the World's High School Sports blog notes, some private schools actually voted for the proposal, while some public schools voted against it.

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