TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Growing list of states require disclosure of student athletic participation

Pennsylvania has joined the list of states that require public schools to disclose details about how much they spend on sports and how well they are progressing in providing equal athletic opportunities for girls.

The law is billed as a step toward promoting fairness in athletics by enabling students and parents to find out whether girls’ teams get competitive funding for facilities, travel and other essentials.

Among other things, the law requires each middle school, junior high school and high school to report annually each Nov. 1 to the state Department of Education (and on the school’s own website):

  • A breakdown of athletic participation by gender, race and ethnicity.
  • The salaries of all coaches, and the number of coaches and trainers per sport.
  • The amount spent on travel, uniforms and equipment, by sport.
  • The amount spent by boosters, alumni clubs and other outside support organizations, by sport.

The change was part of a wide-ranging education bill, HB 1901, that Gov. Tom Corbett signed June 30.

Title IX, the 1972 federal anti-sex-discrimination law, requires schools and colleges to provide equal access to academic and athletic programs without regard to gender. Requiring schools to notify the community each fall that the statistics are online and available for review will provide a powerful enforcement mechanism where athletic offerings for girls remain deficient.

The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act already requires comparable disclosures from public and private colleges, but only a handful of states — Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico and now Pennsylvania — require similar transparency at the K-12 level.

Even in the absence of a state disclosure law, all of the statistics that now must be broken out and reported annually in Pennsylvania are, at a public institution, a matter of public record. A public school (or school district) should readily fulfill a request for the salaries of coaches, the number of athletes participating in sports by gender, or the amount budgeted for each sport.

The enactment of HB 1901 also is a reminder that, in addition to each state’s overall public-records act, the lawbooks are littered with targeted disclosure laws that require gathering and reporting of particular statistics. Locating those laws, and knowing what to ask for, is what elevates a capable public-records digger to an open-government ninja.