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Lawmakers, Opponents Seek Compromise On FHSAA Reform Bill

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The Florida High School Athletics Association is fighting for its survival. State lawmakers have proposed measures that could transform the organization and those for it and against say it’s time to strike a compromise on changes.

The FHSAA regulates high school sports. But a plan by Dover Republican Representative Ross Spano would let schools chose other associations to join by sport. Spano describes the effort as athletic choice:

"Now schools have the choice and ability to join as a full-time FHSAA member, or non-member on a per-port basis.," he said. "Give schools the ability to join other associations on a per-sport basis without FHSAA action or discriminatory retribution against those schools.”

Opponents to the Association complain it’s too strict when it comes to student eligibility and too aggressive in fining schools. Others say it claims to be a non-profit yet has millions of dollars in the bank and Spano’s bill would cap what the FHSAA could charge in dues and fines. Tuesday, the organization’s leader Roger Dearing addressed the House Education Appropriations Committee:

“Ima give you a broad brush. Those fees and dues we collect in every area amounts to $2.6 million a year. We spend $5.2 million a year. We don’t collect more than what it costs us to do it. The difference comes in our sponsorships."

The fight over the FHSAA has raged for years, leading capital gadfly Brian Pitts throw up his hands.  “You can move on by finding another association and designating a new one," he said.

Miami Republican Representative Erik Fresen likened the fight over the FHSAA to one that has raged over alimony reform:

“Whatever can happen between the two parties so that this can become an athletic alimony reform bill we can go ahead and do that.”

Several lawmakers are expressing a desire to see a compromise between Dearing and Spano. The FHSAA says it’s willing to work with the smaller associations and Spano says he’s willing to keep talks going.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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