Last week, the Valley News asked: As school districts struggle to meet the state’s 2-percent tax cap, what should be the first thing cut from 2012-13 budgets? The top three were:
72.73% Sports programs
10.61% Teaching positions
9.09% Music programs
According to one of our recent polls, the vast majority of people believe that sports should be removed from school budgets in order to help districts stay within tax caps.
So, it is now my turn to tell you why the majority of people are wrong.
Cutting sports is a flat-out idiotic idea, and the only people that I can see even thinking to take that step are those who were picked on by the jocks in school and thought, "One day, I will get back at all of them."
Sports is as important to education as the arts and music. The problem is, these are also the top three choices on the poll.
Do these people not remember going to school? Do they not remember the fun that comes from getting a chance to participate in these activities? If they did, then they would remember that there is a lot of learning that comes from these endeavors.
Cutting sports will also make them more selective and class-driven than they already are. We know that, even if sports are taken out of school budgets, they will live on through boosters.
Boosters can't pay for everything, though, and the remainder of the cost will have to come from the participants. That means kids who may have played for the team but are financially unable to will not be able to play. That's a problem, as some kids may use sports as their only release from otherwise tough days.
The same can be said for music and arts programs. How can educators or school boards make these items selective for only those who can afford it? That does not seem like a fair way to do business.
Sports, music and arts were a big part of my life in school, and here is the big reveal — I was a benchwarmer in two out of the three sports seasons.
That's right, during the soccer and basketball seasons, I just sat there, cheered on my team, and actually enjoyed almost every minute of it. And I was a darn good baseball player.
I also was a member of the school chorus, jazz band and regular band, as well as a member of the drama club and public speaking teams.
There is no way I would have been able to do everything I was able to do in school if I (alright, my parents) had to pay for it. Not that I think they would not have been able to, but they would have wanted me to prioritize, probably based on ability, and select the ones that I was best suited for. That, of course, would have been upsetting.
I mean, let's be honest, why would you want to put hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into something like uniforms and equipment that will never have to be washed because it never gets used in a game? Again, you are making these programs more selective then they already are and denying students the opportunity to learn in a non-classroom setting.
Yes, I know that the main component of school is the classroom and the teaching that goes on there. That's where the learning — state-mandated learning, at least — happens.
But anyone who does not think learning happens with these other programs are truly not educated.
Keith Lobdell is the editor of the Valley News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org