Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Follow us on Twitter! @OS_Report
Yesterday was Election Day. If you didn’t know about that, then clearly you weren’t paying attention to the billboards, yard signs, or the nearly constant stream of political commercials that came across television and radio.
Chances are good that some school in your area had a levy on the ballot. Did it pass? Did it fail? What will be the consequences of that failure? Will a couple of teachers lose their jobs? Will some classes be cut from the school’s class offerings? Or will more “serious” cuts get made?
I always end up seeing or hearing some parent (usually male, usually a big time sports fan) complaining because they know that the school in their area was threatening to cut sports and other extra-curricular activities if the levy failed. Now, I myself ran cross country and track, and was also a drummer in the marching band (you need football games in order to have a half time show), so my life would’ve been severely changed if my school would’ve been forced to take an action such as this. Thankfully they weren’t.
So if the levy does fail, is taking away sports the right thing to do?
First Things First…
Before we go any further, let’s look at a few simple truths about school funding and the services that they provide.
The first truth is that Ohio’s method of school funding was declared unconstitutional over three decades ago. We are dealing with and debating about a broken system. This means that every time a school levy comes up on the ballot, and every time we elect a candidate who does nothing to change the way schools are funded, we are really choosing to allow this system to continue.
The other truth about school funding is that a school levy (along with ones for public services…think fire department, ambulances, etc.) represents one of the few taxes that voters actually have a say in paying. So as a result, people with fixed incomes who legitimately need to control their spending usually vote no. And then there are the rest of us, who would rather focus only on what we can do for ourselves, who actively turn down school levies at a staggering rate. I get it, I really do. Taxes are high, so why not lower them whenever you can? But every time we vote against a school levy in order to help our wallet, we’re undercutting our families educationally. Is it worth it?
You see, many people look at the public school system as if it is a service that is provided free of charge. Well I’m sorry, but just like any other government run program, you pay for it in taxes (or the government pays for it by printing more money…but that discussion is for another time). Now sure, you can shrink the size of the government by killing and eliminating all of these various tax levies, but who is going to provide the services that those tax levies would support?
In short, when you turn down a school levy, you get what you pay for…less.
Here’s another simple truth: there is no law that mandates schools to provide transportation or extra-curricular activities to students. None. So we can’t really act as if high school football is one of those inalienable rights that were mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,”…nope…high school football isn’t in there.
The Real Question…
Now we get to the real question. Is taking away sports the right thing to do? Should other things be taken away instead? The answer to that question lies in how you define “right” and also in looking at what schools almost always have already taken away before letting the axe fall upon sports. Frequently, that answer is deeply rooted in your perspective, or more simply, whether you are in the schools on a daily basis or not.
I am writing this article as someone who majored in education and struggled to find a job. Part of the reason that I’m not teaching lies in the fact that when I entered the job market, schools were cutting, not hiring. The other part lies in the fact that education has become an ugly monster of which I want no part. So there’s my bias for all to see. I’m not going to pretend it’s not there. And in case you were wondering, yes, I vote to support every levy that comes up on the ballot in my area.
If you are a person who is in the school on a daily basis, then cutting sports makes the most sense. This is not to say that it’s a pleasant decision. But frankly, when you have a bunch of state standards that your students need to meet by passing whatever version of the standardized test is out there now (which is also a conversation for another day), it can be awfully hard to see where Friday night football helps in achieving that goal. Yes, there is research and practical knowledge that shows that extra curricular activities can help students learn time management and other skills that eventually lead to greater success in the classroom. But frankly, there’s no educational standard that measures this. So you’ll have to forgive the school if little Jimmy’s wrestling match is passed up in order to save a teacher’s job and keeping classroom ratios low (both of which also benefit the student in ways that state standards don’t directly measure).
If you are a parent then “right” means something totally different. You want your kids to enjoy childhood. You want them to have the opportunity to do the things you did or didn’t do when you were in school. You understand that for a majority of kids, junior high and high school represents the only chances that they will ever have to participate in organized athletics of any kind. So obviously, for a school district to so clearly deny your child the opportunity that seems so pivotal is just simply tragic. I understand that, I really do. I can even sympathize with you a little bit. Stay with me.
Let’s return to the simple fact that I mentioned earlier: you get what you pay for.
When it comes to schooling, the reality is that many parents don’t realize a lot of what goes on at school every day. This does not mean that they don’t care or that they are lazy. But frequently, they don’t see the day to day operations of the school. In fact, much of the time, parents don’t even realize when many cuts happen. Now sure, if your child’s teacher was to lose their job halfway through the school year, then yes, you’d notice that. But most job cuts happen during the summer, when students’ and parents’ attentions are directed elsewhere, like vacations…or more sports. Then when you come back in the fall, it seems like business is running as usual because you haven’t noticed the fact that the school has been/already is trimming its costs.
But there is a part of the school equation that parents do see on a regular basis. They go to the games, they benefit from having their kids picked up and dropped off by the bus. These are the things that benefit them personally. These are the things that they notice the most when they are gone, because these are the things that are out in front of them the most. These are also the things that enrage the public the most when they are cut.
We should see the cutting of sports coming from a mile off, but most of us don’t even care until it actually happens.
Isn’t that odd? We don’t bat an eye when we turn down a school levy and four teachers are fired that next summer. But if we turn down a school levy and suddenly there’s not going to be football games every Friday night in the fall, then we’re practically rioting in the streets. The administration has lost its mind, and clearly the school is the bad guy because they appear to be holding football hostage. Really? Are we really that childish?
The school is not the bad guy. The school is just trying to make the math work (unlike the federal government and many American households, schools actually have to handle their money like adults and operate on a budget). Sometimes the results of that equation are unpleasant. As voters, we often willingly put the difficult decision in their hands, so we can’t really complain about the results now can we.
The bottom line is this: nothing in this world is free…not education, not healthcare, not even snow removal in the winter. Since these things are provided by the government, then that means that taxes are necessary to fund them. If you don’t want to pay taxes, that’s fine. Just don’t complain when the roads have too much snow on them, when the government healthcare system gets progressively worse, or when schools cut sports because the money just isn’t there. You made your decision, now you have to live with it.