For instance, he asserts that financial support of high school sports may be a key factor in explaining poor academic performance of US students. He writes:
Strong claims should be backed up by evidence, and since Conn did not provide any, I looked into the subject. I found little evidence to support the argument that support of high school sports has come at the expense of academics. To the contrary, there is more concern being expressed that cuts to sports budgets, as part of overall cuts to education, is limiting the ability of many to participate in sports as sports opportunities increasingly go to those who can "pay to play."
The US GAO recently released a report that looked at data through 2006 on school-based physical education and sports programs (here in PDF). It found that schools had turned to outside funding to mitigate budget cuts:
Looking at more recent data, Up2Us, a non-profit focused on youth in sport, argues in a recent report (here in PDF), based on research conducted by Brian Greenwood, professor at California State Polytechnic University, that high school sports saw,
an estimated $1.5 billion in cuts for the 2010-2011 school year and an estimated 40 percent of school districts charging fees to play sports, or “pay-to-play” fees.None of this data supports the claims advanced by Conn, and may even counter his arguments. Clearly better evidence is needed to assess trends in public funding for sports vs. academics.
It is certainly worthwhile to debate the role of sports in educational institutions, including their costs, their benefits and their proper role. However, such debates will not get very far if they are not based on solid data and evidence.