When it comes to high school athletics, the question of spending has long been a source of discussion and, yes, sometimes contention.
Education is about academics, some will say.
They’re 100 percent correct, as far as they go.
Learning through academic study is and must be the core of any solid educational pursuit.
Yet anyone who’s gone through high school knows young people develop not just through study of literature, mathematics and social studies. They grow through opportunities for leadership, through goal-oriented interaction with peers, through adversity, through development of mind, body and spirit.
That happens in chess clubs, cheerleading, student councils, student organizations and, certainly, athletic competition. Those require money.
Friday night football undoubtedly draws a lot of attention to schools, and a considerable sum is spent on programs focused on gridiron performance. The seemingly recurring question is whether too much money is devoted to athletics.
Arkansas school districts face a deadline this month to submit newly structured reports on athletic expenditures. The goal of the effort, required by law, is to create a common yardstick by which spending among school districts can be evaluated.
That goal is a desirable one. In the past, trying to compare one school district’s financial devotion to athletics to another’s has proven to be an exercise in frustration. It was like judging the performance of two star quarterbacks when
Districts had their own methods and justifications for how they broke down costs. So the state Legislature implemented a one-size-fits all formula for determining spending on athletics.
When it comes to public money for any endeavor, accountability is a good and proper expectation. Nothing about high school athletics makes it immune to such a standard.
It’s interesting, though, that one can easily find serious concerns among school district financial officers about the state’s formula for determining how, for example, utilities costs are shared among a school district’s many uses for facilities.
Simply having a formula doesn’t mean it’s fair or precise. With such concerns, the state needs to continually evaluate its methods to make sure these athletic expenditure reports give not just a consistent picture of spending among school districts, but one that reflects reality. We’re not sure the formula does that.
The question of obtaining accurate data is one thing. The next obvious question is what will be done with it. Clearly, the data collected will be used as a basis for public policy. That’s why it’s crucial the state mandates the process is done correctly, not just in the same manner.