The D Line
Cutting sports budgets is in best interest of no one
A million bucks doesn't buy what it once did. Ask anyone fortunate enough to be personally dealing with a seven-figure bank account.
But $1,000,000 is still a magic number. It grabs attention in any context.
So when we hear that a cool mil needs to be slashed from the state DOE budget for high school sports in 2009-10, we correctly figure it would have a major negative impact. It's a sizable chunk of the $13.3 million annually earmarked for sports.
They're talking about, or were talking about, completely cutting out junior varsity sports in the public schools. That would be a huge mistake, and fortunately it appears people with clout have made enough noise (or threatened such), to make the DOE and the BOE look for alternatives.
Pay for play -- where student-athletes are charged a registration fee to participate -- is not a good one though. Many kids and their families are already footing much of the bill, for uniforms and other equipment. And those whose families can't afford the fees are often the most at-risk if sports get cut.
Varsity games are the ones we publicize in the paper and the ones college and pro scouts attend. But JV is just as important, if not more, for other reasons that affect us all. Kids in their early teens who don't have something structured to do after school can easily find their way into trouble that can get bigger -- and costlier to the public -- as they get older.
So maybe you're convinced JV sports are important. But as the entire state education system tightens up, sports has to take a hit, too, right?
Well, maybe it shouldn't. BOE member Lei Ahu Isa says "they've got money," referring to the DOE. She's right, if you consider a $2.378 billion annual budget money.
I do, especially when comparing to the sports budget.
Just .56 percent of the DOE's kala goes to sports. To put this in perspective, mainland states send 3 to 6 percent of their public educational funding to sports -- in some cases, that's more than ten times the amount Hawaii devotes.
Yes, facilities, equipment, staffing and other basics eat up huge chunks of the money. But so do some very questionable line items. Isa said 680 vice principals went to Orlando recently to visit a model school.
"Excuse me? Out-of-state travel?" Isa vows to "never take money away from JV sports," especially when such questionable expenditures are commonplace.
Some heavy hitters including Greg McMackin, Mufi Hannemann and Keith Amemiya are poised to testify at tomorrow's BOE meeting at Waipahu Intermediate School. The board convenes at 3:30 p.m. with testimony starting at 6:30 p.m. There may be a vote on the issue.
Amemiya, the state prep sports czar, says the long view should be taken. If the cuts are made and junior varsity sports get the ax, societal problems down the road will be a direct result.
It's easy to argue for books over balls, but without the carrot of athletics, you can forget about the noble ideal of No Child Left Behind.
So, in this case a million dollars does still buy a lot -- a better future for the entire state.
Instead of taking it away, the DOE should send $1 million more per year to sports, and get closer to the national average.