The Austin school district could start offering more perks to athletic coaches in hopes of attracting better talent. School board members will hear about a proposal tonight to pay coaches competitive stipends and offer flexible work schedules.
Austin ISD says student athletes do better in school than non-athletes. Their attendance rates are five percent higher. They score almost seven percent higher on math tests. And they are 16 percent more likely to graduate. The relationship between learning and sports is the subject of much scholarly analysis.
That’s part of the justification for increasing how much AISD dedicates to athletics. Currently, the district spends about $10.7 million a year, which amounts to 1.1 percent of AISD’s budget. Almost two out of five high school students play sports. In middle school, it’s closer to three out of five.
Providing stipends to coaches and giving them more flexible work schedules might help attract better talent and make students more likely to play sports, but the head of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association Rusty Dowling says that’s not the only thing coaches will consider.
“When you talk to somebody about increasing their compensation, it’s always going to be an attractive feature, there’s no doubt about it,” Dowling says. “Whether it’s the best way or not, I think it would just depend upon what that particular coach might be looking for.”
Dowling says coaches may be looking to play in schools of a certain size. They may be concerned about the relationship of the athletics department with central administration. They might care more about the quality of the athletics facilities.
“They’ll do their homework,” says Dowling.
AISD hasn't said how much extra it would pay coaches, but Houston ISD pays a football head coach up to $6,000 in stipends. The amount is "not contingent on win-loss record," according to an HISD compensation manual.
The quality of AISD’s athletic facilities is also an issue before the school board tonight. They’ll be presented with three options for major repairs to things like gyms and stadiums and locker rooms. The prices range in price from $82 million to $179 million.
The least expensive scenario includes installing new artificial turf at Burger, Nelson and House Park stadiums. Burger would also get a new HVAC system. The most expensive scenario would add new facilities to high schools, including concession stands, outdoor bathrooms, wrestling gyms, indoor scoreboards and a competitive swimming pool for district-wide use.
Board members will also consider mandatory athletics periods in middle school.
Tonight’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed on the AISD website. No votes will be taken.