Cuts in school finances have been going on for years, but now it really has their attention in Brainerd. Why? Now, they’re going after athletics — the sacred cow of school finances.
According to the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper (reg. required), the district is considering how best to implement $5.5 million in cuts, with about $860,000 to come from athletics. Last night, 300 people heard about the two plans being considered. One retains adapted floor hockey, baseball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, dance, football, softball, boys’ and girls’ swimming, boys’ and girls’ track and volleyball. Participation fees would jump from about $80 to near $300 per sport. A second plan retains more sports but calls for more money from booster clubs.
Brainerd is not alone in the budget cutting.
In Duluth, a similar situation is facing school officials. They need to cut almost $6 million from the budget. On Monday night, they outlined a plan to cut administrative positions — including athletic directors — as well as shutter a school, reduce technology and textbooks. A list of cuts on the district’s Web site today lists increasing fees for “co-curricular” activities, but does not include outright cutting of any athletic programs, and says a proposal to charge students the full cost of participating in athletics is not being considered now.
In Savage, the school district is considering not opening a new school that’s just been built, and is also considering increasing the cost of participation in athletics. Other programs facing cuts at the middle school level include peer mediation, the district spelling bee, student newspapers, chess teams, speech, drama club, math masters, technology club, and traveling basketball, football, volleyball and soccer.
The situation is inspiring a new round of an old debate: should high schools, in particular, still be in the sports team business?