ALBANY- So it's settled: Cheerleading is set to become an official sport in the eyes of New York's education policymakers.
A state Board of Regents committee on Monday unanimously approved making competitive cheerleading an official interscholastic sport, which would make New York the 35th state to do so.
The regulation change would subject cheer teams to limits on season length, require rest days between competitions and bolster certification requirements for coaches, among other provisions.
The full board is scheduled to approve the change Tuesday, which would mark an end to a four-plus-year debate in New York over whether cheerleaders should be regulated the same way other competitive sports teams are.
"We're extremely excited to have the opportunity to recognize this as a sport," said Robert Zayas, executive director of the state Public High School Athletic Association. "This is something that our association has been trying to accomplish for the last four years."
The NYSPHSAA, as it's known, has been publicly pushing the change since 2009, along with the state Council of School Superintendents.
The regulation change would only apply to cheerleading teams that perform routines in competition, according to Ken Wagner, the state's associate education commissioner for curriculum, assessment and educational technology.
Those teams that only participate in sideline cheering at basketball and football games, for example, wouldn't be affected.
"There is a distinction between traditional sideline cheer -- the people who want to cheer on their local school, team or whatnot -- versus cheerleading as a sport, when it becomes much more athletic, complex and risky," Wagner told the Regents' committee Monday shortly before it voted. "What is before you is more of the latter."
A total of 11 Regents voted in favor of the regulation change at Monday's committee meeting, which is a majority of the full 17-member board that will vote Tuesday.
James Rose, director of physical education and health/interscholastic sports for the Yonkers school system, said he was pleased with the Regents' action. But there are challenges ahead, he said.
NYSPHAA's Section I, which covers Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, had already recognized cheerleading as a sport, Rose said.
"This is a good move because it will basically make the sport a little more safe," Rose said. "There will be some challenges as a result of now bringing the sport under the guidelines of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, but I think things are heading in a positive direction."
The statewide move will have little impact on the Southern Tier Athletic Conference, according to executive director Kevin McGoff.
The conference -- which includes schools from the Binghamton, Ithaca and Elmira regions -- hosts a popular twice-annual cheerleading competition among its member schools.
"We've been treating cheerleading as a sport for years, and we've had the competitions for probably going on 20 years," McGoff said. "We've treated it as a varsity sport right along."
Todd Nelson, assistant director of the NYSPHSAA, said it will be up to schools and local athletic leagues to decide whether students would be able to participate in both cheerleading and another fall or winter sport. Some schools and leagues have rules against students participating in more than one sport during the same season, he said.
The cheerleading issue will be one of several to be voted on Tuesday by the Board of Regents, including a proposed change to a much-debated teacher certification assessment required for the first time this year.
The board's higher education committee will consider a change to the Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA, that would grant a temporary, two-year teacher certification to those who fail the exam but pass a written assessment.
If approved, the full board could vote Tuesday, as well.
The edTPA, an extensive assessment that requires prospective teachers to submit a video showing them teaching a series of lessons, has been criticized by some colleges and the State University of New York's main labor union, who have raised concerns about its implementation.
A bill being considered in the state Legislature would delay the implementation of the edTPA for a full year.