WARNING: Before anybody accuses me of being anti-sports or biased against them because I am an inept nerd who likes playing with data, I will proudly state that, yes I am an inept nerd who likes playing with data. No, I never played organized sports, unless you count the time I signed up for Softball as an adult and surprised everyone (nobody more than me!) when I caught a line drive to right field (yes, I was relagated to right field to minimize damage). I am not, however, biased against sports. I know they provide an important role in many people's lives. My own children participate in soccer, swim team and new this year, basketball. Only one of these are through the school at this point. I AM, however, against sports or any other co-curricular activity being considered more important than or even as important as Fundamental Education. They should be just what they say they are: EXTRA-curricular meaning outside of the curriculum, in addition to the curriculum, in the case of sports and CO-curricular, meaning supporting of existing curriculum such as Jazz Band and forensics. For proof of my equilateral hatred of these items superceding Education, please reference my previous posts regarding my opposition to the drama and musical productions essentially stealing over 10% of a students school life every quarter they're offered. Note also my extreme frustration with the abysmally low GPA (1.5) required for co- and extra-curricular partication.
Click on the link to read the Gazette article about the proposed cuts in the Janesville School District Sports budget. As expected, the comments indicate that many sports proponents are outraged and uninformed and many sports detractors feel vindicated and are equally uninformed. The Observer scooped me in posting this one. Thanks for keeping me posting! Here's my musings about this issue:
One particularly stubborn misconception surrounding high school sports is that they are money makers. Tiring of hearing people say "when the band makes the kind of money the football team does, then the band will be treated equally," I did a study in 2008 based on coaching contracts for the 2007-2008 school year. I compared sports gates to sport coaching contracts. The only 2 sports to come close to "breaking even" are boys and girls basketball at the high school level. There wasn't any record of gate fees for the Middle School level, but the overall results, combining Middle School and High School contracts vs. Gate receipts showed more than a 3 to 1 ratio of contracts paid to gate fees received. In 2008, we spent $99,391.00 for all sport coaching contracts and received 30,245.16 at the gate. So in ECSD, and likely most other high schools, sports are not self-sustaining.
Anybody who believes sports is considered just one way to encourage student engagement is deluding themselves. Last year, the co-curricular contracts for all activities in the entire district totalled a little less than $150,000. Only 50% of the compensation used for sports alone is considered acceptable for everything else. Music, drama, academic (chess club, science club, etc.): all these kinds of activities in Evansville School District put together are considered to be worth half the value of the sports offered when viewed through the lens of the almighty dollar. Like it or not, accurate or not, this is the perception of the maddening crowd. Click on the link below to see the "report card" posted on the district web site for 2007-2008. On page 9, there is a summary of co-and extra-curricular participation in various area schools. The number of students participating in Academic and Music co-curricular activities in ECSD was 528 in 2007-2008, comprising 55.6% of the total Middle School and High School population. Athletics had 482 participants, or 50.7% of the total enrollment in these schools. When you add the academic and musical co-curricular involvements at the intermediate school (there are no school sports offered at this level), even more students are served. If we view this disparity through the lens of number of students served, it is even more of a disservice to our students. Contract costs alone for sports cost the district $206.20 per participant in 2007-2008. If we estimate the co-curricular participants at TRIS to be about 72 kids, (which I think is a conservative estimate considering drumming, choir, science club and history hunters alone), the cost per student to provide non-athletic coaching contracts for their activities is $83.33 per kid. The next time you pay your kid's participation fees remember this! That $60.00 per sport is merely 29% of your kid's portion of a coach. The $24.00 activity fee for non-athletic endeavors is a similar percentage of the coaching contract: 28.8%. Middle schooler? What a bargain, you only pay 15.5% or $32.00 per sport. Same thing for Middle School activities: that $7.00 only covers 8.4% of the coaching contract.
Does the disparity in pay between the athletic and other activity coaches affect the quality, commitment and consistency of the lesser paid coaches? Maybe. There are certain expectations inherent in an athletic coaches job that they teach our children how to safely play sports and minimize injury. There is always the hope a kid gets a scholarship and (please oh please oh please) go pro. All of this is wrapped up in coaching salary, but nobody is willing to admit it. Is all of this worth twice as much as the music coach who may guide a child so well she scores a full ride scholarship to the UW-Madison? Doubtful. Or how about the forensics coach who encourages the next Mike Wallace? And what is it worth to have music programs (and really dedicated parents) that mentor and encourage the likes of our own Olivia Fontaine, who sings like an operatic virtuoso at the age of 14?? I am not convinced that it is equitable that this disparity exists, but I'm sure many people will disagree with me.
An additional discovery in studying our coaching contracts in 2008 was the disparity in boys and girls sports. That year, 61.05% of the coaching dollars grades 6-12 went to boys sports, 38.95% went to girls sports. I was told that it was because they had a hard time keeping young women coaches in the system due to increasing family obligations. But this is an easy, superficial answer to a complex issue. When the coaching contracts were reviewed last year for conference comparable salaries, I discovered that there was a grouping of "gold level, silver level and bronze level" coaching pay categories, which according to our Athletic Director, corresponds to the amount of student contact time required in coaching these sports. Girls have only one sport at the "gold level", which includes football, basketball and wrestling. Boys have three. The sports used to meet Title IX requirements of providing an equivalent girls sport, Volleyball and Poms, both have "silver level" coaching compensations. That fact alone shows lack of commitment to me. Poms and volleyball are cheaper sports to provide and while following the letter of the law, this certainly violates the spirit and purpose of the law. And maybe there's more to their retention problem than "young women don't stay in coaching positions once they get on with having their families." That's just a very simple reason given that administrators are happy to believe because they don't want to investigate what the real problem could be. The good old boy system is alive and well in Evansville, WI.
Anyway, kudos to Janesville for spreading the pain to all areas. It bears noting that they're still spending over one and a quarter million dollars on athletics, so it's not as if all funding has ceased for sports. God forbid that money go for Education, with a capital E, that is.