THE BLOG
05/11/2015 10:42 am ET Updated May 11, 2016

Stop Underpaying Coaches!

LAUSD coaches should receive adequate compensation.

The education of a youngster in school does not take place exclusively in the classroom. There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating that what youngsters learn on the field of play is valuable in their overall development as students. Then why is it that coaches in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation, are terribly underpaid?

According to Trent Cornelius, LAUSD's coordinator of athletics, the average coaching stipend is $2,175.58. Estimating that the average coach puts in 18 hours per week for a 14-week season, the hourly wage earned is $8.63. The hourly wage probably is below that, if you count the hours that the coaches spend in preparing for their jobs. This places what coaches earn per hour well below the current California minimum wage of $9 an hour.

Since 2008, the LA84 Foundation has been working in partnership with LAUSD's Beyond the Bell Branch to provide solid after school sports opportunities in the district's 100 middle schools. We became partners in this program because of a core belief that sports participation keeps students connected to school and helps students do better in school. This is particularly crucial in middle school because students who eventually drop out of high school begin to disconnect in middle school.

Evaluations of the program have validated our premise that participation in sports helps students do better, particularly those who need it the most. The most recent study conducted by the Claremont Evaluation Center, in collaboration with LAUSD's consultant, Glenn Daley, reports the following positive outcomes:

  • English learners among the LA84/BTB sports participants show higher rates of re-designation to English-proficient status and greater gains on proficiency tests than matched comparison students.
  • Regular participation in the LA84/BTB sports program (more than 15 days) during 8th grade is associated with higher pass rates for Algebra 1 and more advanced mathematics courses in grades 9 and 10 compared to a constructed comparison sample of no sports program participants.
  • LA84 Foundation sports participants demonstrate greater success in the transition to high school than matched comparison students.
  • Regular participation in the program in grade 8 is associated with a higher GPA in core courses in grades 8 to 10 compared to non-participants.

While these finding apply specifically to a middle school sports program, other studies have documented the advantages derived by high school students who participate in sports. And, an important key to that success is the coach.

LAUSD administrators face many daily challenges. They have to make difficult decisions prioritizing needs and meeting those needs with limited resources. I do not want to suggest that they are intentionally ignoring one of the most successful mechanisms for keeping our youngsters engaged in education and helping teenagers understand the roles of leadership, decision making and team work that will lead to success throughout life. But, it is difficult to understand why the district refuses to adequately compensate coaches. In the district's multi-billion budget, a slight increase to the stipend each coach receives, to at least make it comparable to those received by coaches in nearby school districts, should be possible.

To ignore the coaches' plight is insulting to the coaches. It is a dangerous policy to ignore the important contribution they make to the education of a child.