KSHSAA competitive balance effort for schools, not biological girls

(The Sentinel) – The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) allows transgender biological males to compete against biological girls, but it draws the line at public schools having to compete with private schools.

In the 2020-2021 school year, private schools in Kansas, while accounting for less than 8% of all high schools, won a remarkable 36% of all state championships in which they were eligible to compete.

As a result, KSHSAA recently adopted a proposal for a “private school modifier” which seeks to “even the playing field” by moving a handful of private schools to a higher classification.

Last school year, schools were classified from 1A (12-107 enrollment) to 6A (1328-2371).

The multiplier, which artificially increases enrollment for classification purposes only, is based on three factors and works this way:

First, every private school begins with a multiplier of 1.0, its actual enrollment. If that school won 5-9 state championships over the previous five years, it would receive an added multiplier of .15. If 10 or more titles had been won over the same five-year period, the multiplier increases to .30.

The second factor is geography. If the physical address of the private school lies within the attendance area of a public school, add .30 if the public school is 5A/6A, or .15 if 3A/4A. No multiplier is applied to 1A/2A schools.

The third consideration is socio-economic. If up to 20% of the private school student body receives free-or-reduced-priced lunches, .15 is added to the multiplier. If more than 20% is in that category, no additional multiplier is added.

The result of the multiplier can be considerable. For example, the largest private school in Kansas, Bishop Carroll Catholic in Wichita, had an enrollment of 1,178 in 2020.  But with a multiplier under this scenario of 1.75, its new “enrollment” nearly doubled to 2,061, moving the Golden Eagles from 5A to 6A. The same with Bishop Miege in Roeland Park. The Stags would compete in Class 5A next year after a 1.75 multiplier jumps its “student body” to 1,169 from its reality of 668.

The KSHSAA proposal faces three hurdles before its enactment. It must be approved by a majority of its 354 members, including a majority in each of the state’s six high school classifications. Next, the Kansas State  Board of Education must sign off on the idea. Finally, the State Legislature must act to amend State Statute 72-130/72-7114.

In its complicated effort to restore competitive balance in high school athletics to benefit public schools; in effect, punishing successful private schools by forcing them into higher classifications to compete against much larger schools, an interesting issue emerges:

KSHSAA allows transgender athletes to compete against biological girls

KSHSAA did not come to the rescue of high school girls when it had the opportunity to do so during the last two legislative sessions. The organization took no position on Senate Bill 160 sponsored by Wichita Republican Renee Erickson, which sought to ban transgender athletes from competing against biological girls. In fact, the governing body for high school athletics has adopted a transgender policy.

Erickson is critical of the KSHSAA.

“It is incredibly ironic that the KSHSAA is attempting to “level the playing field” between public and private schools while completely ignoring their blatantly unfair policy of allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports. If they truly cared about fairness for all Kansas student-athletes, they would admit they are wrong, correct the policy, and ensure a level playing field for girls. Until then, their cries for fairness ring hollow.”

Erickson’s bill was passed this year by both the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Laura Kelly. The Senate override the veto, but the House failed to do so by three votes.

KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick defends the decisions of his organization.

“As an association of member schools, we follow policies approved through our governance structure. This governance protocol includes leadership comprised of school administrators and stakeholders from across the state and will eventually determine whether the proposed amendment to our classification system is necessary to achieve the fairness desired.

“Only the first step of a process was realized at our recent Board of Directors meeting. The decision to send the item under consideration for the next step was based upon recent historical data (that) would show that private schools win a greater percentage of championships when compared to the percentage of membership comprised by private schools.

“Relative to transgender participation, recent data does not suggest an imbalance of success and our membership continues to follow a policy adopted approximately ten years ago. Accordingly, the KSHSAA remained neutral on this particular legislation proposed by Sen Erickson.”

The transgender issue will doubtless be revisited next year in the legislature. Supporters of Sen. Erickson’s bill see no “multiplier” available that levels the playing field for girls competing against biological males.

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