The Albia Community School Board has joined a growing list of public schools ranging in size from small rural schools to metro Des Moines schools, asking the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to look into school classifications in regards to district and state tournament competition of public verses private schools.
The letter that the Albia board signed on to asks the two governing bodies of sports and fine arts to consider “students deserve a level playing field and fair opportunity to strive for success at a competitive level,” and “recruitment of students and engagement in acdtivities is further hampered by continued lack of success due to an unlevel playing field.”
The letter states that communities with students from lower income families deserve the same opportunities as higher income families and that IGHSAU and IHSAA “must recognized that low poverty levels of students and community impact the ability of school districts to be competitive with other similar sized schools…”
Superintendent Kevin Crall said the petition came to a head after the boys athletic association hired Tom Keating as their president. Keating’s entire career was as a teacher and coach at Dubuque Wahlert and as president of Xavier, both private Catholic schools.
Surveys of recent state championships in both boys and girls sports show a serious imbalance toward private (both Catholic and non-Catholic) schools. The letter suggests that private schools do not serve as diverse a population of low income students as public schools.
Virtually every state surrounding Iowa deals with the competitive imbalance between public and private schools, weighting enrollment or otherwise having private schools compete in their own divisions. Iowa has no weighting system, placing competition in sports, music and speech in divisions based solely on enrollment.
Board Vice President Roger George asked Superintendent Crall if the letter would actually have any impact or if it was the beginning of discussion. “I think the answer to that is both,” said Crall. “There are public school superintendents really serious about getting something done immediately, but it will be a process.”