Sunday, November 23, 2008

School District Proposes Unified Booster Club

After a Title IX compliance report prepared for Mercer Island (Washington) School District revealed funding disparities between boys and girls athletics programs, the district's athletic director is proposing a partial solution in the form of a unified booster club.

As we've noted before, schools must provide athletic opportunities of comparable quality to boys and girls, regardless of donations to the school made by booster clubs of individual teams. Disparities can result when popular sports (often football) receive a great deal of parental and community support compared to other less popular sports. When these disparities track gender lines, a school district risks violating Title IX.

Such compliance concerns have prompted Mercer Island officials to propose that a single, school-wide booster club replace the 22 individual booster clubs for respective teams. Not surprisingly, this idea is reportedly unpopular, as some of the more well-organized and effective clubs are reluctant to sacrifice control and submit to profit sharing with other teams. But Mercer Island is right to insist that they do so. If parents and community members do not want to voluntarily support their daughters' teams in the same manner as their sons', the school district has to figure out a way to neutralize the inequality that results, either by matching funds raised by the effective clubs, or forgoing booster club donations altogether. Unified booster clubs are a responsible, fair alternative to both of these expensive and unfavorable extremes.