Reducing Education to a Benefits System

Native Cranstonite and former Major Leaguer Mike Stenhouse hit his recent op-ed out of the park:

The proposed elimination of varsity athletics programs in the Cranston school district is a direct result of what is wrong with the political system in our entire state. Namely, that state law and city contracts routinely give priority to the special interests, squeezing out taxes and programs from everyone else.
For me, participation in varsity athletics at Cranston East in the mid-’70s was a critical factor in my overall growth as a person. It is an outrage to know that similar opportunities for students are now being stolen from them because of misguided laws and misprioritized budget planning. High-school athletics uniquely develop leadership skills and character in our students beyond that of any other school activity or curriculum item. Athletics are not an expendable frill and are far more worthy of our tax dollars than most other spending. …
It is unconscionable that we continue to guarantee exorbitant benefits for specially protected groups while sacrificing investment in our students.

It seems as if the first things schools cut are programs that actually open the door for students to excel on their own initiative. Perhaps they do so because it’s an easier sell; if it’s a choice between programs, the emotional reaction is to protect students who need the most help against those for whom the opportunities are to reach a higher level. Unfortunately, programs that open doors, rather than attempt to carry students through them, are much less expensive, so more must be eliminated to achieve the same budgetary savings.
Where the resources exist for those students to acquire the opportunities on their own, they’ll do so. That’s why Rhode Island has a high rate of private school attendance.
The reality is, however, that reaching the choice between programs requires making another choice first: between students and employees. That’s the point at which voters must begin applying pressure. Any school committee member, district administrator, or state bureaucrat who cuts into these programs is not only backward-looking but also deserving of replacement.

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