Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Local Schools Shell Out for Sports

Lots of talk on this blog below about why it doesn't matter that the University of Arkansas spends half as much money on athletics as it does on academic instruction or that coaches are paid more than professors. The excuse heard most often is that the athletic program pays for itself and doesn't use tax dollars or student tuition and fees, so who cares if they spend more than the money-losing University Museum?

High school sports, however, are a different story. Every dollar spent on athletic activities is a dollar not spent on classroom and co-curricular activities like literary magazines, quiz bowl, and debate that exercise the mind. Even among the extra-curricular activities, there is an obvious imbalance when the band has to beg for money to participate in national events like the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade or the Presidential Inaugural Parade. You don't see the football team having to throw a back sale to go to state playoffs.

So, if you care where your state income and sales taxes and your local property taxes (at least those not paying off the Mountain Inn TIF bonds) are going, here is the latest report on athletic spending in 2007-2008, released last month by the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Audit. The local school districts below are diverting more tha $1 million a year to being good sports and building character. Fayetteville spends and additional $150,000-$180,000 annually for travel, but it is paid from activity fees rather than your tax dollars.

School District - #Students - Athletic Budget - $/Student

Bentonville - 11,922 - $2,572,553 - $215.78
Rogers - 13,324 - $
1,853,336 - $139.09
Springdale - 16,734 - $1,838,301 - $109.79
Fayetteville - 8,384 - $1,543,418* - $184.09
Siloam Springs - 3,658 - $1,209,227 - $330.57

It is worth mentioning for comparison that the Greenland School District, facing bankruptcy last year and taken over by the Arkansas Department of Education, was spending $315,409 ($340.25 per student) on athletics while projected to come up $139,774 short on instructional funds. The Greenland School Board was dissolved by the state due to the financial distress of the district. Fired Superintendent Ron Brawner, who mismanaged the debacle,
walked away with $2.703 in unused vacation and sick leave. He also sent a demand letter for $176,000 in salary after his termination, but the state declined to fork over the money.

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