The district in which I work is facing a shortfall of upwards of $18 million next year. Serious cuts will have to be made to balance the books. Discussions center around layoffs (the current number is 142), closing/consolidating smaller schools, deleting jobs (counselors, nurses, vice principals, etc), and even the most sacred cow of them all--extracurricular athletics.
This last topic was the subject of lunchtime discussion today. At the heart of this topic is the question, what are schools for?
If you poll random people with this question you get several answers. Having done this in the past, I'll share with you the most common answers:
1. to teach students (master a body of knowledge)
2. to prepare students for life
3. to prepare students for college
4. to prepare students for the workforce
5. to help each student reach his/her potential
6. to instill a love of learning
7. to make good citizens for our country
Of course, the actual answer is probably a little bit of each of the above. While we can argue over the percentage of time and effort each of those answers would merit at an ideal school, certainly schools exist for all these reasons and more.
So when beans have to be counted and cuts have to be made, should we consider cutting athletic programs?
In today's discussion I took the side of cutting athletics. A fellow math teacher took the opposing view. I'll try to summarize her points here:
1. not every student feels success in a classroom,
2. school should nurture the whole child,
3. athletics is sometimes the only hook that gets certain kids to school, and
4. athletics plays a large role in the college aplication process.
Given these views, she asserted that athletics should be spared and that the district should cut non-school-site-related activities (e.g., administrative overhead) only.
I can argue with none of those four points yet draw a different conclusion.
In a district our size, $18 million is a huge sum of money. Deep, painful cuts will have to be made, and I don't know if $18 million can be cut from the district office(s) and still leave a viable district (as opposed to a collection of schools). We must prioritize our programs because cuts will have to be made. By definition, extra-curricular activities, those above and beyond the school's curriculum, should at least face the axe. But given her points above, how could we possibly cut athletics?
To be continued....