March 31 2009

Policy Brief #20: Proportionality is Not What High Schools Need

Allison Kasic

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Download Policy Brief #20 below.

Executive Summary

The High School Sports Information Collection Act of 2009 has the potential to radically alter the state of high school athletics. The bill, introduced to Congress in late February, would require high schools to report a host of data on their athletic programs to the state government, as well as make such data available to the public. This data includes athletic participation figures broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity, budget information, and much more.

Such a requirement may seem harmless at first, but its impact will depend on how the collected data is used. Since the bill is modeled on the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which requires similar reporting data from colleges, there is a clear model to predict the result of this data collection. In practice, such data is used for the purpose of Title IX enforcement to ensure that a school's athletic programming is "proportional," which means that the gender ratio of a school's athletics mirrors the gender ratio of the overall student body.

Proportionality's rigid standards have taken a toll on college athletics, resulting in widespread cuts to men's programming. There is no reason to believe that results would be any different at the high school level. In fact, proportionality's negative impacts are likely to be more pronounced, as many more students participate in high school athletics than collegiate athletics.

Current Title IX enforcement is fraught with flaws. Policymakers should address these major concerns first, before looking to expand the enforcement system to other arenas, including high school athletics.

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