Parental involvement is a vital part of any child’s education. But legislation that would revamp the governing boards for interscholastic leagues in Kansas and the Kansas State High School Activities Association runs the risk of upsetting a system that has done a good job of guiding high school athletics and other activities for many years.
As outlined in a Journal-World story earlier this week, a bill currently being considered in the Kansas Legislature would require that non-educator community members hold half the seats on the governing boards for all of the state’s interscholastic leagues. It also would enlarge the KSHSAA executive board and require that four of the 14 seats go to non-educators.
A main goal for at least some supporters of the bill is to give parents of student-athletes more authority over how competitions are governed. In theory, that philosophy seems sound, but a person doesn’t need to attend very many youth sports competitions — at any level — to see examples of parents who get a little too involved in their children’s athletic endeavors.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, a longtime critic of KSHSAA, said that many school districts see the group as “a dictatorial agency” and that parents are “the ones that should be responsible.” The activities association may seem “dictatorial,” but turning the operation of high school activities solely over to parents would be nothing short of chaotic. Some of the parents who are focused on gaining more control over these activities probably have children who aspire to become scholarship athletes in Division 1 colleges. Do they think the NCAA, which governs college athletics, will be any less “dictatorial”?
Here’s the bottom line: If activities, and especially athletic programs, are a legitimate part of the educational experience at Kansas high schools, they should remain under the control of the education system. It certainly can be argued that all of these activities build school spirit and the value of hard work. They also can teach the importance of being part of a team and of adhering to the rules that guide their participation on that team. Those are good life lessons.
In our sports-crazed society, it’s easy to give athletics too much importance in the overall educational scheme. The nature of the job it does almost guarantees that the KSHSAA will draw some criticism, but watering down the authority of educators to oversee athletics and activities in the state’s public schools isn’t a step in the right direction.