Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

How Much Does a Private School Student Count? A Critical Analysis of the Athletic Multiplier

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

How Much Does a Private School Student Count? A Critical Analysis of the Athletic Multiplier

Article excerpt

As Catholic high schools continue to experience success in interscholastic athletic leagues, state associations have repeatedly contemplated ways to thwart the perceived Catholic school advantage. One such effort, the multiplier, receives critical assessment in this article.


In a number of states, the athletic associations have responded to the success of private schools in interscholastic competition by applying a multiplier to the private school's enrollment. The multiplier artificially inflates private school enrollment so that when schools are divided into separate classifications based on enrollment, private schools are grouped with public schools that have larger enrollments and presumably better teams. The underlying assumption is that private schools have an unfair advantage that requires such an adjustment. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri have a 1.35 multiplier; Arkansas recently raised its multiplier from 1.35 to 1.75; Georgia has a 1.5 multiplier which it has repealed; Illinois has a 1.65 multiplier; Tennessee recently adopted a 1.8 multiplier; and Texas has a de facto multiplier. Wisconsin is looking at multiplier options beyond the familiar public-private school divide. Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina have explored a multiplier, but found limited support for it. Indiana and Nebraska have rejected a multiplier by votes of the athletic association board and by members of the athletic association respectively. Kentucky and Louisiana pursued segregation of private schools and are included in this analysis because these cases share many of the same themes found in states that examined the multiplier. New York has taken a unique approach that defies an easy explanation.

This article will take a case-study methodological approach, examining those states that have considered enacting a multiplier. The case study approach will inform a critical analysis regarding the multiplier and the rationale for its use.


The first state to adopt a multiplier was Alabama. The Alabama Athletic Association (AAA) had two proposals from the membership that sought to eliminate private schools from the association or to create a separate association. After considering the matter, the AAA developed a 1.35 multiplier, which had at its source, a statistic gleaned from the differential between the eligible athletic rolls and the enrollment rolls. The rolls indicated that the athletic participation rate among private schools was 35% higher than that in public schools. The rationale for the 1.35 multiplier was articulated in Appendix A of the 1999-2000 handbook of the AAA, and took effect in the 2000-2001 school year (Brentwood v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, 2001; Johnston, 2000).

A less rational approach was taken by the State of Georgia. Georgia's legislature stepped into the fray in 1999, when Tom Murphy, the Speaker of the House, was upset that his daughter-in-law's debate team at small-school Bremen kept losing in debate to nationally ranked Atlanta Pace Academy (Trowbridge, 2004). The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) responded to Murphy's request that all private schools be bumped up a classification by offering to enact a 1.35 multiplier, but it was not enough; Murphy asked for 2.0, and the executive committee of the GHSA settled on 1.5 (Trowbridge, 2004). After Murphy's retirement, and presumably after his daughter-in-law graduated from Bremen, the multiplier was repealed by the Georgia Legislature (Georgia General Assembly, 2005).

The Arkansas High School Activities Association (AHSAA) board of directors' summer of 2000 workshop contained several public-private school legislative items including a 1.35 multiplier (AHSAA, 2000a). All of the public-private school legislative items received the board's recommendation for passage and were subsequently passed (AHSAA, 2000b). …

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