Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Arkansas, Academics VS Sports

As soon as I got to high school I knew there was something different between the athletes and the rest of us students. They got all the attention and money. They got the best of everything. Those of us who didn't have an athletic bone in our body knew and understood that we were second class citizens. Yeah, the administration claimed that academics were important but we knew. Yes, we resented it. All that money just so a couple of guys got their scholarships and went to a prestigious college and maybe, just maybe, one athlete made a national team.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has a great article about the disparity between the funding of academics and athletics. You always knew it existed but it's shocking to see how big the difference is in actual dollars and special treatment of coaches.
Arkansas’ school districts reported collectively spending at least $ 116 million on athletics in fiscal 2007. The districts report spending a combined $ 50 million on salaries for athletics employees. But state Education Board member Mays estimates that districts spend closer to $ 200 million annually on athletics.

It's been a number of decades since I've been in high school and the system hasn't changed. It won't change until people decide that a student's education is more important than the school's athletic program.
Mays said his complaints largely fall on deaf ears at the Capitol and during state board meetings. Because sports, and football in particular, is so ingrained in Arkansas culture, most state leaders don’t want to discuss cutting athletic costs, Mays said. "People get so emotionally attached to their sports programs that they just won’t look at that objectively," he said. "Football conjures up an emotion that is beyond reason."

The supremacy of sports is ingrained in all the states school programs. Participation in some sport is very important to a person's well being, but there needs to be a balance. It's just too bad that parents and administrators don't attempt that balance. There will be some schools that will have achieved that, but they are few. I don't see this inequity changing anytime soon. I can only hope that it's in my lifetime.

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