Friday, August 12, 2005

Budget Cuts

Got a preview of the 2005-2006 athletic department budget and saw that it had been cut like a first-year med student's cadaver. When I became Athletic Director two years ago the budget stood at $18,000 -- a lot, but not enough to fund a full compliment of sports. A 30-year veteran and myself put together a proposal to the then-superintendent, which resulted in a "permanent" $14,000 budgetary increase for all middle schools in the District. Last year, the budget stood at $32,000; I put together a plan and all was well with the world. Halfway through the year, maybe a month after the superintendent who approved the increase was forced out, the budget is back to $18,000 and we're in the red. What a coincidence.

Now I know that even having an athletic department budget makes us fortunate; we clearly have entered an age in education where the powers that be, panicking over impending test scores and low literacy rates, have cut everything out of education but reading, writing, and math -- I know schools which have abandoned even social studies and science in pursuit of meeting NCLB (say it with me, "nickle-B") goals and mandates. Still though, what we have is another unfunded mandate. Within the confines of the current budget, I can pay all my coaches and myself (my stipend equals about $0.43 an hour) and then have exactly $1,500 to spend on referees, transportation, and equipment. When the average bus trip runs about $120, that $1,500 doesn't go very far. Give me enough funds to the job, or don't give me anything at all.

MINOR TANGENT: Methinks it's pretty much bullshit that I have to pay my own District to ride buses to sporting events. I have to give them their own money back and at a higher rate than surrounding school districts, which do not even charge, or negligiblely charge their schools for use of buses.

WHY THIS SUCKS #1: In the absence of electives, (art, computers, etc.) formal, school-sponsored sports are a critical aspect of campus life. On a student level, they often provide a reason to keep grades up, behavior high (as A.D. I check and enforce), and actions honorable. It is a way for students to demonstrate success in non-traditional academic ways. It is especially important for young girls, a means for them to develop self-esteem and build positive relationships that are more free of gossip-boys-clothes-crap than most anything else. Especially with road-games, it is an excellent teaching tool to build concepts like honor, respect, maturity, etc. On a school level, I think the increased athletic success we have enjoyed in the past three years is a non-small part of the overall school reform we have put into practice. It's another way to raise student investment in our school, get them excited about everything we do, and improve our reputation within the community and District.

WHY THIS SUCKS #2: The schools based in more affluent communities will not feel the cuts like we do, because they can call on non-working parents with excessive amounts of auto insurance to transport kids, they can supplement with student body funds that are disproportionately higher, they can use the kids' own basketballs, shinguards, gloves etc., rather having to supply them. They can continue without cutting the program by basically half. Once again, the poor kids get screwed.


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