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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extracurriculars 3.2% of Madison School Budget

Madison Central School District publishes its proposed budget in Thursday's paper. Extracurriculars take up 3.2% of $11.3 million in total appropriations:
  • Boys' Sports: $70,543
  • Girls' Sports: $60,324
  • Co-Ed Activities: $189,677
  • Transportation to Games, Tournaments, etc.: $36,730
  • Total Proposed Extracurricular Budget: $357,274
Debate note: if the MHS Debate team competed at every debate tournament during the season instead of staying home more weeekends during the season than it traveled, firing up two Suburbans to make the trip would add maybe another $630, less than 2%, to the total travel budget (your mileage may vary).

Opt-out note: You could eliminate the need for the $250,000 opt-out renewed this year by eliminating all co-ed activities, all transportation to games (play only home games? intramurals?), and maybe a third of the sports remaining sports. But does anyone think that's a good idea.

3.2% of the school budget buys arguably the most memorable, formative, community-building experiences our kids have in school. That's pretty good return on investment.


  1. So, when you look at it, sports themselves (not counting transportation) take up 1.15% of the total budget? Kinda shoots holes in the argument "All they spend money on is sports", don't you think?

    And there was a recent report by the South Dakota Board of Regents, that says athletes have a higher Grade Point Average than their non-athlete counterparts. That coincides with an NCAA study of Division-1 schools a few years ago. Kinda shoots holes in the "dumb jock" theory, doesn't it!

    But even with all this evidence, you'll never convince some people of this. Which makes you wonder who is the dummy?

  2. How the amounts allocated to athletics are determined should be considered before saying it is a small part of school costs.

    Schools mostly don't do anything like "enterprise" accounting. How much does it cost to keep a coach on the staff who is basically incompetent as a teacher in other areas? How much fuel goes to heat and cool athletic facilities? Is it in the extracurricular budget or in the whole fuel and electricity fund?

    Students other than jocks who got the extra tutoring they get in college and the soft campus jobs they get would be doing better too.

    Athletics diverts resources in very unrewarding ways.

  3. Michael Black5/23/2010 9:35 PM

    OK Douglas...if you really want to cut all costs then teach all of the kids by computer and to make Cory happy we will make it a netbook. Kids could be taught at home using a state-wide delivery system. We could eliminate school districts entirely. There would be no sports, no coaches and certainly no debate team. Our costs per student could drop to the price of the netbook plus $100 for technical support.

    A strong school district with winning sports programs will attract families and businesses to our area. This benefits us all.

    I am a proud MHS graduate of the class of 1981. I was in awe at the amazing sea of maroon at the last two state basketball tournaments. The community spirit was deafening at the Arena. We have a huge number of students working hard every day to continue the legacy left by today's graduating seniors. Sports and extra curriculars develop the drive for excellence that you'll never get staring at a computer screen.

    Sports teach students social skills that they will need later in life. Winning and losing with grace will allow them to cope in the real world.

    Hopefully our young people will continue to the habit of exercise as they get older. Sports make fitness fun. If more people would get off the couch and get active, we wouldn't have the rampant obesity and the accompanying health care crisis we now face.

    Very few coaches are paid. Look at the city diamonds on any night and they are filled with kids playing and practicing hard...all with volunteer coaches.

  4. So what's the budget for the arts in these schools, no elementary art teacher in Madison I hear, surely we can do better. Sports, debate, arts, music, theatre, all need support, equally, and that is hard to discount!

  5. Good thing you're not an accountant. If you believe those numbers then I have bridge to sell you.

    Where's the amortized costs for building, fields, upkeep, electricity, water, personnel to care for the facilities, uniforms, etc.? - to name just a few not-so-minor items that slid through the budgeting.

    It matters not whether extra-curricular activities are 0.01% or 2% or 10% of the public school budget - taxpayers should not be footing the bill for playtime. School is for scholarly activities - not swimming, ice hockey, dance, or any of the sanctioned extra-curricular distractions. John Kelley

  6. Fred Deutsch5/24/2010 5:23 AM

    I don't think I've seen extracurriculars expressed as a percentage of the total budget before. It would be interesting to compare Madison's 3.2% with other similar size schools' extracurricular budgets.

  7. Michael Black5/24/2010 5:33 AM

    Our children are not our enemies.

    Which return on investment is greater: spending extra money on education for extra curricular activities or our prison system?

    Our kids learn more life skills from participating in things like sports, FFA, school plays and yes even debate than sitting in front of computer screens listening to a teacher lecture.

    We get a huge bang for our buck in SD when it comes to education. If you look at other states with their dismal graduation rates and greater spending per student and higher teacher salaries, SD looks really good.

  8. Michael Black5/24/2010 5:45 AM

    Cory, how much of the extra-curricular budget is offset by admission fees at the gate?

  9. John: I can't separate out school from playtime in the maintenance budget, but the general proposal lists expenses for "Operation and Maintenance of Plant" at $988K. $738K from general fund (mostly salaries, I'm guessing), $250K from capital outlay. Any guesses as to how much of that is sweeping and painting the schools, and how much is mowing the football field?

    Michael, I'm with you completely on bang for buck. But note that your comment about our vibrant summer baseball programs suggests that what John and Douglas propose, handling all sports in community clubs instead of on tax dollars, could work. I'll still stick up for debate, because debate satisfies more state curriculum standards than some regular classes.

    Oh, the budget proposal lists revenue of $25K from gate, $20K from activity tickets, $10K from "activity income," and $180 for musical instrument rental. $55K total— 15% of total extracurricular budget.

    Fred: interesting indeed! How's Watertown's budget look on this score?

  10. Michael Black5/24/2010 7:34 AM

    John and Douglas propose the elimination of school sanctioned extra-curricular activities. I don't see any mention of community clubs.

    Let's get to the point: Are extra-curricular activities giving the students a good long term return on the dollars being invested by the taxpayers?

  11. Another aspect of inter-scholastic sports spending to consider is that it benefits only a small percentage of the students.

    Sports that might make sense are swimming, track or jogging in a PE type class, golf, tennis which are not team sports, but can provide a basis for a lifetime of activity..and in the case of swimming might actually save a person's life.

    Interscholastic athletics sucks the life out of better options for spending taxpayer money and diverts attention thus contributing to a continuing spiral of nonsense in schools.

    I love messing with computers, but I am not at all certain the expense is justified in relation to the returns. "Silicon Snake Oil" seems to have been prescient.

  12. Here's yet another example of a good intention that turned into taxpayer paid for "playtime" in Kansas City. Summer school, needed by about 800 for graduation credits or to improve skills, is offered and taken by 6000 for fun things like music enrichment, etc. This year KC pulled the plug on summer school. That's sad news for the 800 who need it. But that's what happens when we lack the DISCIPLINE to FOCUS like a laser beam on scholastic activities - funds for scholastic activities suddenly are frittered away.

    Mike, the kids are not our enemies - we are their stewards. When we fritter away scarce public funds on extra-curricular activities (taxpayer funded playtime), we have no grounds to complain that there funding is scarce for scholastic needs. We have grossly confused needs with wants. We need to re-prioritize. John Kelley

  13. Michael Black5/24/2010 7:24 PM

    WE do not fritter away tax dollars. Politicians do a great job of that for us.

    Extra-curricular activities touch almost every student in the area schools. I was in FFA in Madison. My wife did volleyball. In Rutland, my kids have been in band, chorus, FFA, oral interp, one act play, all school play, basketball and football cheerleading and basketball. Eligibility has been a HUGE motivational tool for them to continue to get good grades in school. From personal experience I can tell you that all of those activities were more than worth the time, energy and money. Most of the year, we are gone 2 to 5 nights a week going places to support our kids. I go to many MHS events to cheer on student athletes. You can see my pictures every week in the Madison Daily Leader. I see what a difference athletics can make in a student's life.

  14. No one is arguing that extracurriculars aren't an important part of a forming a well-rounded individual. The question is whether or not these should be done at taxpayer expense. A free public education was never intended to cover all the ancillary services and extracurriculars now expected of a school system. There are many worthwhile activities that are not taxpayer funded like church activities, club sports, volunteer activities, etc.

    I also agree that many of the extracurricular sports activities are not open to all -- only to the few athletically gifted who get the top spots on all the teams thru the year, leaving out many other equally deserving students.

  15. Good point, Doug and Linda, about the exclusive nature of some activities. Not everyone gets to play football. I was able to give every kid who wanted to try a chance to pick up a script and interp or write a case and try debate. I agree that to the extent that we support extracurricular activities, we should support those that best promote lifelong activity and learning.

    Soug mentioned running, golf, tennis... let's add bicycling! Brookings is adding a bicycle unit to their P.E. class. They're even getting some two-seaters so that special needs kids who don't have the balance to ride by themselves can ride with an instructor and keep up with the rest of the class. There's an activity that provides not just enjoyment but usefulness in getting around town, running errands, etc.


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