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Level D.C.’s playing field

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SO GOOD IS the football team fielded by Friendship Collegiate Academy in the District that it was ranked among the Washington area’s best high school teams in The Post’s influential rankings last year. Despite that, the Knights didn’t get to play for the city championship; as a charter school, Friendship was ineligible. That cruel inequity is coming to an end with the long-overdue decision by city officials to create an equal playing field for the growing numbers of charter school student-athletes.

Citywide games this fall in football, boys and girls basketball, and boys and girls indoor track will also be open to public charter school students as well as to private, parochial and independent schools that agree to abide by the unified eligibility rules of a newly created athletic association. The annual Turkey Bowl, a long-standing and cherished ritual of the public school system, will remain intact with its winner vying for a true city football championship against the team that emerges from a playoff of public charter schools, independent schools and private schools. There also will be competition for spring sports.

Charter school officials have long complained about athletic opportunities being denied their students. It made no sense that some of the city’s best athletes — Friendship, for example, had two All-Met football players last year — were sidelined in the postseason simply because they chose to attend a public charter school. And, with a larger percentage of public school students attending charters, currently at 41 percent, the unfairness became all the more glaring.

There are still, though, areas in which charter school students are not on an equal footing with their counterparts in the school system. Many charters struggle to offer athletics to their students because they lack adequate playing fields or facilities. Friendship, for example, has no home field to practice on or to host games and relies on a shoddy field at a nearby rec center for home games. The football team at one Capitol Hill charter school shares a public field with a girls soccer team while the playing fields of nearby Eastern High School go unused.

Clark Ray, the athletic director appointed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to break down the barriers between charter and traditional school athletes, told us he is aware of the facilities issue that confronts the charters and is committed to helping find solutions. Giving charters access to unused or underutilized public school facilities would be a good first step.

More on this debate: On vouchers, Romney wants more fed support Fred Hiatt: Teachers must make the grade in charter schools The Post’s View: A realistic measure of D.C.’s graduation

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