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Friday, June 3, 2011

Et tu, Brute?

I was reading in yesterday's edition of the Scranton Times that the Abington Heights school district is taking steps to close the looming budget shortfall that all school districts in Pennsylvania are facing by making a number of changes, including the elimination of Latin classes.  I've read where other districts are eliminating all day Kindergarten, increasing class sizes, reducing the number of teachers, and just generally slimming down programs in order to fit into a smaller financial footprint.

Strange though, in all of the articles I've read there seems to be no mention of touching that most sacred of local sacred cows, namely sports in general and football specifically.

Yes, apparently having a football team that benefits what, maybe 60 students, is more important that running a full day Kindergarten that would benefit potentially EVERY student that enters a particular district.

Latin?  Hell who needs that?  It's not as if the words are used in every day conversation (except of course if you are a doctor...or lawyer...or some other "fringe" job), right?  But football, well we all know that benefits the entire community.  Note that I am being sarcastic.

Getting to the heart of the matter, my thinking is pretty simple:  Playing football does help students, namely those students who choose to play football.  I get it that such a program instills discipline, provides the potential for college scholarships, may enhance a sense of school community, etc..  What it doesn't do is advance the core mission of every school district, namely to EDUCATE STUDENTS.  The fact that football programs are not on the table as potential areas for budget cutting is nothing short of astounding to me on one level, but on anther it simply validates the notion that many of the people who run school districts in this area are grossly non-qualified for the positions they hold.  While not claiming that I am qualified to be a school board director, I will say this...if it were my charge to fill a budget shortfall, the first thing I'd do is to parse out all of the districts expenses into four categories:

  • Direct Education Expenses...what expenses do we incur as a direct result of educating students?  This would include teacher salaries, cost of books, etc.
  • Legal Expenses...what expenses do we incur in order to comply with the law?  This could be building codes, Dept. of Education requirements, etc.
  • Indirect Education Expenses...what expenses do we incur in support of educating students?  This would include things like busing students, paying for educational field-trips, etc.
  • Non-Educational Expenses...this includes those extracurricular that have no direct connection to educating students, such as sports, non-educational clubs, conferences for administrators, etc. 

I'd then start reducing costs from the bottom of my list upward.  Then again I am a logical guy who thinks that "tradition" if fine, as long as it doesn't (in the case of a school district) prevent you from buying books.

Now do I expect any sports programs to be eliminated in NEPA?  Yeah, some local district may take the drastic step of cutting the rifle team.  Maybe the NRA can help.  What I don't expect is for any local school board director to be courageous enough to say "football is a nice to have program, but it doesn't have anything to do with education students.  Let's talk about eliminating the program", simply because we live in a society where there is still this mystique surrounding the "football hero".  Mystique and tradition are fine, as long as they don't prevent Johnny from learning how to read.

Finally, as for football being this wholesome activity that builds character, I'm reminded of what I see in the news lately about the Ohio State program.  In case you haven't been up on the sports news, the program had students who were trading championship rings for, among other things, tattoos.  Yup, there's some wholesome tradition for ya!

1 comment:

Coal Region Voice said...


Here is a good article by Mike McGovern of the Reading Eagle on this subject as a percentage of tax millage.

If done correctly, some football programs help finance other none revenue sports. Also, look at what no football means to a band or the cheerleaders.