Budgets are tight in school districts across America, and when money becomes scarce, tough decisions have to be made. For some schools, the cuts may come in the athletics departments, with a number of districts threatening to significantly decrease the athletic programs available to students or do away with sports altogether. While this is not a choice most schools want to make, what other options do they have when the money simply isn't there? We'll take a look at a number of states across the nation that are facing these questions, and how they are handling the challenge of keeping sports and other extracurricular activities in schools, despite their inability to pay for them.
This video reports on cuts to New York City sports budgets.
Cost-Cutting Measures to Begin in Pennsylvania
The governor of this state, Tom Corbett, recently announced a slash to public education in Pennsylvania that will total no less than $1 billion. The cuts were proposed in response to necessary cost-cutting measures that must be taken due to less money coming into the state. According to a report at the Observer-Reporter, $550 million of the cuts are slated for public schools, with a focus on special grants that support a variety of educational programs. The other $625 million would be cut from the budgets of state universities.
As school boards grapple with major cuts to their budgets, one of the first items that appear to be headed for the chopping block is athletic programs. Many predict that middle and junior high schools will be the first to cut back, with some schools even taking away all of their current athletic programs. Schools might also cut spending by limiting the number of conferences and clinics coaches may attend, as well as the number of post-season tournaments in which the schools can participate. The fees to attend these tournaments can get as high as $20,000 for popular sports like football.
Other proposed places to cut funds include:
- Doubling up on boys and girls basketball schedules to save on bus fees
- Restricting schedules to playing schools in the immediate surrounding area
- Parents picking up the tab for expenses like athletic physicals and fees to play sports
- Eliminating athletic trainers from schools
The proposed changes could happen very quickly once the budget is passed in the state legislatures. Schools are already preparing for the likelihood that athletics will look very different during the next academic year.
This video reports on proposed budget cuts in Pennsylvania.
Booster Club Trying to Save Hockey in Hilton
New York is another state that has been hit hard by slashed budgets, and the Hilton school district is feeling the pinch. According to an article at the Democrat & Chronicle, ice hockey is one of the sports slated to be cut in the initial budget proposal. In addition to hockey, Hilton is also looking at cutting gymnastics, two modified basketball teams, and JV volleyball.
Mike Giruzzi, Hilton Athletic Director, said the proposed cuts were based on student participation, program costs, and opportunities for athletes to compete outside of the school. Giruzzi told the Democrat & Chronicle, "We're in tough economic times. We don't want to cut anything." He added that the proposed cuts were far from final and that the district is in an "ongoing process" to determine how to balance their budget while serving the needs of the majority of their students.
The Hilton Hockey Booster Club has decided not to take the news lying down. This group of parents has organized a "Save Hilton Hockey" movement that is collecting donations to try to keep hockey in the schools. The booster club is circulating a petition, appearing at school board meetings, and participating in a variety of fundraisers while waiting for the school board to determine which cuts they will push through.
No Sports in Duvall? Very Likely
In Florida, things look even grimmer for school athletics. A recent article in the Florida Times-Union reports that Duvall County School Board Chairman W.C. Gentry has announced that the upcoming school year may well be one without sports of any kind, thanks to budget cuts proposed by Florida Governor Rick Scott. With a $97 million shortfall staring them in the face, this district may have no choice but to do away with athletics of all kinds, including high school football.
"It's a horrible situation," Gentry told the Times-Union. "There's no question we will have to do away with sports. We're fighting just to preserve the accreditation of our schools. There's no good news right now. We've been cutting for the last three years, so this isn't a one-time hit. There simply isn't anything left to cut that isn't part of the core curriculum. It's an ugly picture." Final decisions will be made by the board in the next few weeks after the state legislature votes on the final budget.
This video reports on budget cuts in Florida.
A columnist at National Public Radio, Frank Deford, notes that it isn't just athletics that are getting cut at schools across the country. He refers to SAM activities, which are sports, art, and music, that have all been the victims of budget shortfalls in recent years. Deford notes that kids that participate in these activities tend to be the ones that stay in school and perform well. Unfortunately, Deford also notes also that "they're the logical expenses to slash before you take down education basics: reading, writing, arithmetic."
With so many schools struggling with tighter budgets and fewer resources to work with, only time will tell how the face of public education will look like once this economic shakedown is complete.
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