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SB 145 corrects a grave injustice E-mail
Opinion
Thursday, 16 February 2017 08:12

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L&T Publisher Earl Watt



The statutes governing the Kansas State High School Activities Association are well-intentioned, but irrefutable data suggests one regulation has had unfair consequences.

State 72-130 requires KSHSAA to “Establish a system for the classification of member high schools according to student attendance.”

This language prevents KSHSAA from being able to properly address the imbalance created by public and private schools.

The only criteria KSHSAA can use is “student attendance.”

SB 145 strikes the words “according to students attendance” from the statute, allowing KSHSAA to create a classification system that is actually fair.

It has taken decades to be this close to correcting a grave injustice, and both the Kansas Senate and the Kansas House should adopt this language so KSHSAA can create a better system of classification criteria, taking into account that a vast majority of public schools in Kansas are constrained to district boundaries in determining student attendance while private schools are not.

Private schools, most of them faith-based, also have that commonality as an advantage, both among the student body and the faculty.

Public schools cannot make that determination which affects, among other things, a value system, a homogenous team effort, parental support, faith support and access, and many other attributes that change the dynamic in such a way that private schools under the current system have won a vast majority of championships by percentage compared to their public counterparts.

It is not saying that public schools cannot compete with private schools, but the statistics are irrefutable that selective enrollment vs. open enrollment should not be the only criteria in determining the best way to divide competitive classes.

Not one private school competes in the largest classification in Kansas, Class 6A, and even when private 5A and 4A schools compete against the larger schools, they still enjoy a higher degree of success.

But KSHSAA can’t even consider how to fix this inequity until this adjustment is made in the statute.

Once that has taken place, KSHSAA can then consider options on how to produce the fairest playing field.

One proposal has mentioned a 1.35 multiplier for selective enrollment schools. In other words, a selective enrollment shool with 1,000 students would count at 1,350 for classification purposes.

This is a common practice in other states including Missouri.

Oklahoma has a more intricate system that also takes into account the success of a team, only moving teams up that meet certain criteria and finish in the top 25 percent of their classification’s playoffs in multiple sports year after year. A lagging sport can remain in its existing classification if it has not shown that level of success.

Whatever KSHSAA decides, it will be an improvement to the existing circumstances that grossly penalize a vast majority of public schools by restricting them to boundaries while private schools are not.

While “official” recruiting may not take place, peers, parents and others can surely encourage talented athletes to make the move, something that a vast majority of public schools cannot do.

Private schools have every right to cross lines and reach out to others. That is what school choice is all about.

And athletes who believe they have a better chance of being on a winning team and are not compelled to attend a school based on their address will simply make the choice themselves.

But basing the classification system on student population alone without taking this into account is unfair, and the first step in correcting this is SB 145.

The current rule was well-intentioned, as are those who participate in private education.

But when only 8 percent of schools win almost a third of all championships, the evidence is clear. Support SB 135.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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