Missouri's public school-private school conundrum has started on a new path.
In May, the members of the Missouri State High School Activities Association passed two proposals on the 2019 annual ballot that fundamentally will change the way classifications are structured and how private schools will be assessed within those classifications.
The big takeaway?
The private school 1.35 enrollment multiplier is out. A new “competitive equity” factor is in.
Starting in the 2020-21 school year, private and charter schools will begin with their raw enrollments, with single-sex school enrollments doubled, and then the individual sports within those schools will be moved up classifications using a points system based upon postseason accomplishments over a six-year period.
Proposal 10, as it was identified on the ballot, passed with 294 votes in favor and 133 against. That's nearly 69 percent of members in favor. That's more than the 1.35 multiplier, which was implemented before the 2002-03 school year when it passed 266-186.
“I think this is going to have a positive effect in both public schools and private schools,” Visitation athletics director Paul Stoecklin said.
One of the biggest selling points of the proposal was that it is sport specific. Instead of the blanket 1.35 multiplier for all private schools, it assesses postseason success of each activity and adjusts the classification of those activities accordingly.
“Every sport is looked at on an individual basis,” Lutheran North athletics director Jon Mueller said.
The MSHSAA board of directors has the final say and will iron out the details at its meeting in September, but the way the proposal was explained at meetings throughout the state over the last year was something like this: A district title is worth one point. Quarterfinal victories are worth two, semifinal wins are worth three and state championships are worth four. The points are not cumulative. A state champion receives four points, not a total of 10 for its victories along the way.
The points accumulated over the six-year period determine whether the private or charter school's team moves up one classification or two. No team will move up more than two classifications from its raw enrollment. The board of directors will determine how many points move a team up one classification or two when it meets in September.
“I think it's a good thing for the state,” Lutheran St. Charles athletics director Doug Kuhlmann said. “We felt like this was the way to go.”
Kuhlmann was a significant contributor to shaping the competitive equity multiplier. He and Ladue athletics director Nick Gianino were the St. Louis representatives on a MSHSAA classifications committee charged with finding a different approach to the public-private debate that remains a hot-button issue.
Kuhlmann formed a five-person committee made up of private-school athletics directors to deep dive into the possibilities. Included on the committee were Kuhlmann, Ursuline's Jen Brooks, Vianney's Terry Cochran, Mueller and Tolton's Chad Masters, who has since resigned from Tolton after he was hired as the head football coach at Vianney.
“We gathered up what other states and other associations did,” Kuhlmann said. “Our committee came up with a different approach.”
What makes the new proposal different is the length of time applied to the postseason points. Some states set it at two years. The Illinois High School Association adopted a similar “success advancement” factor before the 2014-15 school year that uses a four-year window.
A potential drawback to those time frames is one talented class of athletes can come through a school, rack up a significant number of points, then graduate only to leave the next several classes paying the freight for prior achievement.
The Althoff boys basketball team is a prime example as current St. Louis U. standout Jordan Goodwin led an exceptional class of athletes that helped the Crusaders to a Class 3A runner-up finish in 2015 and then the 3A state championship in 2016. Althoff, a co-ed school, had an adjusted enrollment at the time of 633 and was moved into Class 4A for the next two years against schools that have enrollments of 1,357 or more. Althoff did not advance beyond its regional tournament in either year.
When Kuhlmann and his committee looked at the numbers, there just weren't a lot of programs that had the type of sustained success over the six-year period.
“If it was just over a four-year period, then one group of kids could move you up,” Kuhlmann said. “If you look at the overall points, most remained in their class based on their enrollment.”
That had Stoecklin excited. Visitation's soccer team has been among one of the most competitive in the state for the better part of 15 years. Its other activities have not and Stoecklin believes some of that is due in part to the Vivettes competing against bigger schools because of the 1.35 multiplier.
With that now wiped away, Visitation's other sports will be classified with schools with similar enrollments.
“What I love about this is it goes sport by sport,” Stoecklin said. “We'll be able to play schools with enrollments our size. We'll have a fighting chance.”
The other big change comes with the passing of Proposal 9, which will reshape how MSHSAA determines classifications for its activities. The goal of the amended by-law is to balance classifications more evenly and avoid the smallest team in a class competing against a team twice its size in the same class.
With that now part of MSHSAA by-laws, it is highly likely several sports will add new classifications. The one most commonly mentioned was basketball, which would add a sixth class. Proposal 9 passed 376-51.