Understanding funding distribution within PPS athletics

Skylar DeBose and Keira Saavedra

Interviews with Lincoln’s Portland Interscholastics League (PIL) coaches have revealed a perception that certain sports receive fewer resources than others.

Lincoln High School’s head volleyball coach Shailah Ricketts is acutely aware of how this affects her team. 

“We’re not given the same amount of coaching stipends to be able to, in my opinion, successfully develop players,” she said. 

Lincoln’s head dance coach Karissa Dean agrees. 

“I have one paid position that I split up between three people. Whereas football, basketball and a bunch of other sports are able to have multiple coaches in paid positions,” she said.

After learning about their concerns, we began investigating how PIL sports are funded by Portland Public Schools (PPS). Our investigation includes research, interviews and public records requests.

Under Oregon’s Public Records Law, journalists and members of the public have a right “to inspect any nonexempt public record of a public body in Oregon.” In this case the public body is the school district.

On October 27, we filed a public records request to PPS and Lincoln’s athletic director Jessica Russell. We specifically requested 1) records of each high school’s athletic funding program in PPS 2) the specific funding for each PIL sport at Lincoln High School 3) the allocation of funding for each Lincoln High School athlete who plays a PIL sport. 

On November 7, PPS’s public records team responded to our records request by email asking for an extension. “…due to staffing shortages and a backlog of requests I am unable to provide timely acknowledgement and processing.” 

On December 2, PPS asked for a second extension for the same reasons. 

On December 14, PPS Public Records Officer Ryan Vandehey responded to our public records request by email. 

Vandehey said PPS is unable to provide records for each high school’s athletic funding program in PPS and the specific funding for each PIL sport at Lincoln. 

However, he said that each high school is allocated $10,000 from the district athletics office for their athletic programs. 

According to the email from Vandehey, “None of those funds are allocated to specific sports or on a per-student basis, they are used to fund equipment and other purchases as needed.”

PIL athletes may know that they are charged a $200 fee for each sport, but most don’t know where that money is going. Lincoln’s athletic director Jessica Russell explained the use of PIL fees.

“100% of the PIL fees go back to the PIL. That pays for coaching stipends, buses, necessary equipment at the baseline model [and] uniforms every five years,” said Russell.

However, some coaches believe they are given inadequate funds to meet the needs of their teams. 

“I [paid] out of pocket for uniforms [and] court times. Our district tournament didn’t even have courts available to [players], unless they had massive pressure,” said boys tennis head coach Stuart Allen. 

On January 3, we called public records officer Ryan Vandehey to find out the status of our public records request. Vandehey said  he has been communicating with Russell and that our request is a work in progress. 

As of January 9, PPS has not provided us with records. Stay tuned for updates in the next issue of The Cardinal Times.