Committee hears testimony about regulation high school sports agency
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Committee hears testimony about regulation high school sports agency

Date: October 10, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Testimony at a House committee hearing grew heated Wednesday about whether the state should regulate the association which monitors junior high and high school sports and activities.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association is the governing body for most school activities within the state. The Association has been criticized for making controversial eligibility rulings, closing meetings and making unfair rules about when and where student's can compete.

This was the third hearing on the proposed oversight and some legislators said they were getting frustrated.

Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, said the Association is funded by fees from member schools, money the schools get from state taxes. This means the state has the responsibility to monitor the agency.

"The fact that we've been told more than once we have no business doing this, quite frankly offends me,"Wilson said.

Those who oppose state oversight, including former judge Gary Schmidt, said schools already monitor the Association's regulations and government supervision is unnecessary.

"This is an area where the students, parents and the entire system will be far better off without government supervision or oversight," Schmidt said.

Supporters of state oversight said the current system is unfair to large schools and there is no way to guarantee if the agency is being consistent with its decisions about student athletics.

Some oversight supporters, such as lawyer and former MU Basketball captain Joe Scott, called the agency's current system unfair and argued that although the association says it's voluntary, schools can't leave without a consequence.

"If you elect to say, 'well we don't have to belong to this,' you have no one to play, you have no place to go to a band meeting or a debate or anything, you're out," Scott said.

Most of the state's public and private schools are involved with the Association. .

Committee member Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, used to work with the Association and defended it's necessary existence.

"I fail to see what's wrong with schools saying OK, if we're going to compete with each other we're going to make rules so that we're all going to be on the same playing field," Aull said.

Supporters said most school activities have to be done through the group

"It's not voluntary if everybody has to be a member to be involved in any extra-curricular activities, so we need to get away from the idea this is a voluntary organization," Wilson said.

Missouri State High School Activities Association is headquartered in Columbia and has 772 member schools, including 582 Senior High Schools.