The Kansas State Board of Education has approved a change in rules for how it organizes its high schools in athletics competitions.
Passing by a 6-4 vote, the state hoped to address a perceived inequity between private schools, which can bring in students from a wide geographic range, and public schools, which are limited to their attendance zones.
Currently, schools are divided strictly on the basis of enrollment. Under the new rules, private schools that win 5 state titles in 5 years across all sports would receive an attendance “multiplier” that would require them to move up by a classification. Schools can only be moved up one classification by the multiplier.
The multipliers scale based on number of championships won in a 5 year period, the size of the public school attendance in the area where the school is located, and socio-economic factors of the student body. Once a private school surpasses the 5 titles barrier, an additional multiplier is added based on the percentage of Free/Reduced students.
The calculations are based only on team titles, not individual champions.
Other states employ certain requirements that require schools to move up in classification based on success, though it is rare for those rules to be applied to only one portion of the schools (private versus public). In California Southern Section swimming, for example, which is the top sub-state high school swimming meet in the US, teams that win titles at lower classifications are required to move up in future years.
Other states have solved for these problems by having separate classifications or even organizations for public schools and private schools.
In swimming, Kansas is split into two State Championship meets: one for Classes 1A-5A, the smallest schools in the state, and one for Classes 6A, the largest schools in the state.
The small schools meet has been historically, but not exclusively, dominated by private schools. At last year’s boys’ state championship meet, for example, two of the top three finishers were private schools. Wichita-Kapaun Mount Carmel finished 2nd and Wichita-Collegiate finished 3rd. At the girls meet, St. James Academy placed 2nd, Bishop Carroll was 3rd, and Kapaun was 5th.
Public schools from Andover won both state titles in the 1A-5A classification.
The most recent private school state championship in swimming in Kansas was won by The Independent School in Wichita, Kansas in 2020 at the boys’ 1A-5A meet. The St. Thomas Aquinas girlss won a title in 2018.
St. Thomas Aquinas is likely to be hit with big multipliers. Currently listed with an enrollment of 880 students and as a 5A school, they are expected to be hit with a .30 multiplier for winning 10 or more state titles in the last 5 years. They will receive another .30 factor because the school is in a 6A classification zone. That means a minimum of a .6 multiplier, even without a socioeconomic multiplier.
Applying that multiplier to their enrollment already moves Aquinas into the 6A classification.
Bishop Carroll and St. James Academy are likely to be promoted under the new rule as well. Kapaun only lists three state titles in the last five years, though, which means they would not be subject to a multiplier.
The wrinkle in swimming comes that a school can be hit with multipliers and promote classifications without actually changing meets.
Wichita Collegiate, for example, is classified as a 3A school with an enrollment of 244 students. Even if they were hit with multipliers, they could only be moved as high as class 4A, which wouldn’t change the swim meet that they compete in.
Public sentiment depends on the school
Previously, the state held a vote from its member schools. Unsurprisingly, schools from smaller classifications where most private schools now sit were eager for those private schools to be promoted out of their classifications, while schools in the larger-school classifications were not eager to see those private schools join their ranks.
Voting Results were as follows:
Yes = 6 (16.7%) No = 30
Yes = 17 (47.2%) No = 19
Yes = 30 (83.3%) No = 6
Yes = 46 (71.9%) No = 18
Yes = 43 (67.2%) No = 21
Yes = 74 (63.2%) No = 43
Total Number of Member School Votes
Yes = 216 (61.2%) No = 139
Text of the new rule
Classification of Senior High Schools
Section 2: Senior High Regulations
Art. 5:Private schools will be subject to an enrollment multiplier factor when determining classification numbers. Factors for determining the multiplier include school location, socio-economic status, and championship factor. To calculate the multiplier number, the following criteria will be applied:
Any private school that has won five or more state team championships in the most recent five school years will have a multiplier applied to their classification enrollment count. These select private schools will begin with a 1.0 multiplier. The following factors will be added to the multiplier for each select private school.
Championship Factor – cumulative state championships over the previous 5-year period (not activity specific, team activities only).
10+ championships: + 0.30
5-9 championships: + 0.15
NOTE: If a private school has won less than 5 championships in the previous five-year period, the multiplier remains 1.0.
Geographic Population Factor – public school attendance area in which the private school is located.
Within a 5A/6A community: + 0.30
Within a 3A/4A community: + 0.15
Within a 1A/2A?community: + 0
NOTE: If a private school does not meet the Championship Factor, the Geographic Population Factor would not take effect.
Socio-Economic Population Factor
0-20% Free/Reduced students reported: + 0.15
>20% Free/Reduced students reported: + 0
NOTE: If a private school does not meet the Championship Factor, the Socio-Economic Population Factor would not take effect.
NOTE: The multiplier impacts classification for all school activities and will be applied to both general and football classification numbers. Schools cannot move up more than one classification based upon the multiplier. The multiplier enrollment count will not force a school to move from 8-person to 11-person football or from 6-person to 8-person football. Geographic location is determined by the physical address of the private school. If Free/Reduced data is not collected and/or reported, it is assumed to be zero. There is no process for appeal to change a classification that has already been changed by the multiplier.