TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Board of Education will soon consider a plan to reformat the way high school sports and activities are classified at the competitive level.
On Wednesday, the board hosted a public hearing to get feedback on potential changes to the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s (KSHSAA) rule for the classification of high schools.
“Classification is the method we use as an association to compete for championships at the end of the high school season. Championships are won by groups of schools that are demographically alike with the single demographic feature,” KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick said.
The proposal suggests adding a multiplier factor for private schools, which would inflate enrollment numbers for classification purposes. Under the proposal, multipliers would be added based on the number of championships won over a set period of time, the location of the private school and the student poverty rate.
If a school wins 10 or more championships over a five year period, a multiplier of 0.3 would be added. If a school wins five to nine championships over a five-year period, a 0.15 multiplier would be added. If a school doesn’t win a championship in a five-year period, no multiplier would be added.
“Private schools that don’t win five or more championships in a five-year window have the exact classification as every other public school classification,” Faflick said.
Faflick gave the example that if a private school had 1,000 students and the athletic department won 15 championships over a five-year period, that school would be counted as having 1,300 students.
Under the proposal, where a school is located will play a role in the reclassification process.
If a private school is in a 5A or 6A community, then an additional multiplier of 0.3 is used. Schools located in a 3A or 4A community will have an additional 0.15 multiplier. Private schools located in 1A and 2A communities will not have an additional multiplier added based on location.
Poverty levels will also be factored in with a 0.15 multiplier added for schools with up to 20% of students receiving free or reduced price lunch. Schools with more than 20% of students receiving free or reduced price lunch would not have an additional multiplier. If a school does not collect this type of data, an automatic 0.15 multiplier would be added.
Multipliers would affect classification for all student activities, not just athletics. Schools cannot move up more than one classification a year based on the multiplier. Multiplier factors cannot force a school to expand from a 8-person to 11-person football team.
Faflick said the goal is to maintain the same number of schools in each classification. If a private school were to be moved up from 5A to 6A based on the multipliers, then the lowest 6A school would become the largest school in 5A classification.
State Rep. Tim Johnson said private schools currently have an advantage of recruiting stand-out student athletes to play for them by offering incentives like scholarships to attend the school.
“I have no problem with a parochial school recruiting within its diocese or members of their faith. They should do that, but most of these star Division I athletes that are going, religion has nothing to do with it. That’s a principle in the ideas of private schools,” Johnson said.
Marty Straub, athletic director for Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School, said open enrollment in public schools and intra-district transfers should also be weighed when discussing enrollment and athletic recruitment.
“During the last Kansas legislative session, Kansas passed and Gov. Kelly signed the omnibus education bill that will allow for the requirement of open enrollment in our schools,” Straub said.
“In short, any public school who has room will be required to take students who want to enroll in their district. To say parochial and private schools had an unfair advantage because of unlimited access to students is inaccurate.”
Paola High School Principal Jeff Hines said the board needs to step in when there is a pattern of competitive imbalance.
“In Kansas, while less than 8% of our schools are winning nearly 40% of the championships, five times what you would expect them to do, you find that they have one thing in common: they’re private member schools. When that takes place, we need to do something about it,” Hines said.
Geoff Andrews, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Salina, said the proposal could have a big impact on students and teams at Sacred Heart High School.
In the last five years, Sacred Heart has won four championship titles in boys golf and one championship title in girls tennis. The school is located within a 5A school district and has more than 20% of students receiving free or reduced price lunches. Based on this criteria, the school would likely move up in classification if the proposal is approved.
Andrews said while the school is very proud of these athletic accomplishments, moving all teams up to a new division based on the proposed multiplier wouldn’t be fair to all students; using the Sacred Heart football team as an example.
“Going 2-25 in the last three [football] seasons against schools with similar enrollment. Moving up a classification due to titles in golf and tennis does not make sense, nor does it seem fair to those students,” Andrews said.
The state school board will vote on KSHSAA’s proposed modifier at its next meeting in September. If the modifier is approved, it will move to the legislature.