106 Plays Right Into Their Hands

When you’re budgeting for a school department, there are a lot of moving pieces. Of course you wish you had money to fund everything really well, but that’s not the case. Choices need to be made and sometimes cuts are necessary. But where those cuts should come from is often the topic for debate. We’ve seen multiple times recently when school departments are using the Washington Monument Syndrome:

The most visible and most appreciated service that is provided by that entity is the first to be put on the chopping block.

In our local examples, the school department cuts school sports. We saw that a few months back when West Warwick cut high school sports which led to hundreds of people showing up to a Town Council meeting and some even getting so agitated, they had to be removed by the police. Of course after all the gnashing of teeth, the money was found and sports were replaced.
Now there’s a group in East Providence calling themselves Project 106 that seeks to fund middle school sports in the town. First of all, I’ve lived in a handful of states and I’ve never heard of middle school sports before. Usually kids participate in CYO basketball, Little League or Pop Warner Football and the like. Rhode Island seems to have this big devotion to middle school sports. Additionally, quite often these groups won’t be so quick to offer up that they’re looking to save middle school sports, instead leaving it up to the listener to sometimes assume it’s high school sports that are under attack.
Nevertheless, it must be pretty nice to get the heat taken off you as a school board member. You can negotiate these escalating contracts and pay more to areas that don’t directly affect the students and cut things that do, like sports. No big deal because some nice group, like Project 106 will step right in and raise money for the sports. The same sports that were already being paid for through taxes!
It’s great that these parents want to find a way to fund after-school sports, but why are they letting the administrators off the hook so easily? Why was the money available last year but not this year? Keep their feet to the fire, let them know that you’re watching and paying attention. It’d be nice if parents were as keenly aware of all school budget decisions and expenditures, but we’ll start here. Once the administrators see that they can cut sports and parents will replenish those funds, what’s next? Books? Busing? Supplies? Electricity? Heat? Why not? After all, isn’t heating the school even more important than sports? If parents will pay a little more for sports, won’t they do the same to keep the lights on?

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Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
9 years ago

I thought the same thing when I heard this group on air with Matt Allen during the Dan Yorke show. Even more odd is that the parents are diving in simply to offer money, with nothing in exchange.
First of all, if it’s independently funded, why does the program need more than a cursory relationship with the school district?
Secondly, if parents want to funnel the money through the district, why not insist on more of a say in some other area… negotiate *something*!

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

“The most visible and most appreciated service that is provided by that entity is the first to be put on the chopping block.”
We’re going to have to reduce the number of police and firefighters.

9 years ago

Warrington, sadly, police and fire are less of a priority to people than middle school sports.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Patrick, it is all about priorities. THe police won’t get ou into the college of your choice, the right sports and good grades might.

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
9 years ago

School budgets can only approved by the bottom line. The school committee has complete control virtually if not entirely on where they spend money.
In most places in Rhode Island city and town councils approve the “bottom line” of school districts in regional school districts the local counsils do not have even that authority.
The solution may rest in letting others in government and the public more control of school budgets, at least by sections, so things like sports are not readily on the “chopping block”. Mechanically, the current system allows for the problem cited.
An outside management study to examine school expenditures needs to be seriously considered.

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