New APS policy worrying boosters

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Behind every high school football team is an army of boosters, parents and supporters who fundraise to pay for what school districts can't.

"As a parent you want to give your kids the best and we raise funds to do that," said Erick Ornelas, outgoing president of Cibola High School Football's booster club.

But Ornelas and many other APS boosters are worried that the money they're paying could soon go to fund other sports and activities at each school.

In mid-November, the APS Board unanimously passed a policy requiring all athletic booster club funds run through each school's activity fund starting next school year, with other non-sport activities joining the year after.

The change was designed to help the district comply with the 2009 School Athletics Equity Act, a piece of state legislation that requires all schools to report data on athletic teams, including how teams are funded. That reporting includes any private booster clubs.

Although the law does not require districts to manage booster club funds, APS' board decided that was the best way to move forward.

"I understand the reasons for it but I don't understand why they're doing it the way they are," Ornelas said.

Ornelas is concerned that having a central fund at each school and putting APS administrators in charge of the money could lead to several problems. His biggest concern is that APS will use control of booster funding to shift funding from football to other school sports, leading to strongly decreased parent participation.

"They don't want to see the money they raise go to boy's basketball or any [other] sport," Ornelas said.

Other worries include fears that APS administrators will start dictating exactly what clubs can or can't spend money on, that APS will deduct overhead costs needed to manage the money from booster club funding and that adding a layer of administration will be incredibly burdensome.

APS Board member Kathy Korte understands the concerns but believes most are unfounded.

Korte says that while all booster club funds are set to be run through the school, each fund will be separately accounted for. In short, football money would only be able to be used for football.

The other key part Korte says, is that the district still has to specifically lay out how the new booster club policy will be implemented. That means other concerns parents have will be ironed out through a committee the district is set to assemble, one that will include parental participation.

"This booster parent is going to be making sure that the funds my husband and I work so hard to put into our daughter's show choir account, orchestra account aren't hindered by a bureaucratic process that's a nightmare for parents [and] for students," Korte promised.

But there are some parts of this issue that may be out of APS' or even the state's control.

The whole reason the state has a law reporting school athletics finances in the first place is a 40-year-old federal law, Title IX.

Title IX requires public schools and universities, as well as private schools that receive federal funding, provide equal opportunities and equal treatment for male and female athletes. While the rule doesn't specifically require the funding be equal, if revealing booster club finances unveils an imbalance in amenities provided by athletes, that could cause a basis for a civil rights complaint.

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