Our View: Prep sports worth the money | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Prep sports worth the money

The Steamboat Springs School District should not approve a 2012-13 budget without first dedicating an additional $30,000 to cover the estimated shortfall in the high school's athletics department.

Making sure all existing high school sports are funded next school year isn't a long-term fix to a problem that has been brewing for years, but it will provide time for district officials, parents, the Booster Club and other stakeholders to work toward a sustainable solution without immediately jeopardizing valuable extracurricular activities that impact hundreds of Steamboat Springs High School students.

As it stands, the high school's Athletics Department estimates a $30,000 shortfall next year due to rising transportation costs for high school sports teams.

The deeper issue is the district's tiered system for sports teams. All Steamboat student-athletes pay a $150 activity fee per sport (one of the most expensive in the state), and for the past several years, the district has paid for all transportation costs for all sports. The district picks up the rest of the tab — including coaches salaries and equipment fees — for Tier 1 sports, while Tier 2 sports must pay their own way. For some sports, like hockey and golf, that also includes facilities fees for using the ice arena and golf course. The result can be significant additional costs for the parents of Tier 2 sports athletes. The high school's Booster Club used to be able to pay the salaries of Tier 2 sports coaches, but its bank account has decreased significantly in recent years, particularly because of increased competition for money during the economic downturn. Even significant fundraising efforts from parents can't overcome the difference.

The school district has three clear options: cut sports to save money; dramatically increase the participation fees for all sports; or find $30,000 to cover the shortfall next year.

We think the short-term answer is obvious. As of this year, 289 student-athletes participate in Tier 1 sports, and 259 student-athletes participate in Tier 2 sports. Sports play an important role in scholastic achievement and socialization for teens. Studies repeatedly have shown that student-athletes have better school attendance and higher grades. Organized sports also promote physical activity in an era when schools are cutting traditional physical education programs for budgetary reasons.

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Truth be told, $30,000 is not a large number in terms of the school district's overall budget. That's particularly true when considering the Steamboat Springs School District has, in the past six months alone, signed off on $90,000 for a new curriculum director position, $289,000 to start its own health clinic for employees and $272,500 in pay raises for teachers and staff yet to go without a raise since the economic downturn began. For that reason, $30,000 should be a no-brainer for extracurricular activities that we all know have a positive impact on hundreds of participating students.

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