Sport funding act full of hooey

Martha Burk is to women’s rights issues what Friday night football is to high school athletics. Martha slugs it out in the heavyweight division of advocacy.

She disagrees with a column here that criticized a New Mexico law making private booster donations part of the total benefits pie for high school athletics. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish also thinks the column was hogwash.

Basically, what the column said is the School Athletics Equity Act is full of hooey. I know, strong language, but that’s how I feel. Burk thinks I am full of hooey. She said it, though, in a nice way with just a hint of Oh. You. Idiot.

Here’s what I said. The law will prevent booster clubs, say, the girl soccer team, from holding a car wash to fund its annual banquet. Instead, the column suggested, there would be one super dooper booster club to equally distribute money donated or raised privately.

Not true. The School Athletics Equity Act stipulates everything connected to high school athletics, private donations and public funding, will be reported to the state. Therefore, the proceeds of the car wash will be recorded along with the $10,000 gift from the rich guy to whatever team his kid plays on. We will also record the number of coaches each team has and how much each is paid, as well as a lot of other time-consuming data gathering.

The New Mexico School Athletics Equity Act has no enforcement power. It simply exists so that “sunshine” and “transparency” will brighten the high school athletic scene.

The purpose of the law is to make sure districts include private funding when abiding by the federal Title IX Act to make sure boys sports and girls sports are treated equally. Any substantial donation to any team will then give the school district a major headache. As Burk told me on the telephone, and wrote in the Albuquerque Journal:

“…In plain English, this means that if booster clubs provide lavish meals, equipment, and other benefits to boys (or girls) teams, the district must ensure that equivalent benefits accrue to opposite sex teams. How that is accomplished is up to the district….”

That last line is the killer. In fact, the law will discourage private donations and involvement by parents and supporters. How is a cash-strapped district supposed to counter a $10,000 gift to either a boy or girl team and make sure the others are equally compensated?

Burk, more correctly, Dr. Burk, came to fame in a national ruckus when she led the effort to force Augusta National Golf Club to accept women members. She later served as Gov. Bill Richardson’s senior policy adviser for women’s issues. In a telephone conversation, she told me this law is very much gender-based and, in fact, is very much about high school football.

Friday Night Lights, illuminating the skies over Albuquerque or adding sparkle to humdrum life in Deming, represent more than the male-dominated sport of football. It is cherished tradition. (Burk might counter you could have said the same thing about slavery.) The girls state championship softball team does not attract the money or attention heaped on the boys football team.

Precisely the point, Burk would say. When the State Athletics Equity Act shines light on school sports funding, that might change.

So there you have it. After further consideration, here’s what I think of this new law. It is full of hooey. Discouraging private funding of a team where your kid is participating, girl or boy, isn’t very smart. Furthermore, I don’t think communities are going to be much surprised or offended to learn high school football coaches make more and the team travels better than do other squads.

This is an important issue. What I think doesn’t matter much. It’s been many, many years since I tromped around New Mexico with the Carlsbad girls softball team and track team. Furr’s cafeteria was our style. The Cavemen football team ate better, had more perks. Fair? I don’t know. Didn’t bother us then, doesn’t bother us now.

How do you feel about it?