I have written several times about the value of athletics to school districts. The question looming with many taxpayers, is the cost worth the value? This will always be an on-going debate over the financing of education for our children in public schools.
National research demonstrates children connected in school activities have higher grade point averages, lower dropout rates and better attendance but it is important to determine the cost effectiveness of programs within a district. I asked the CFO of the school district where I was employed, to help me with a research project determining what percentage of the total school budget was appropriated to athletics. After researching all the financial records, he concluded the total athletic percentage was only 3.2%. Another interesting fact was the student to athletic staff ratio was 23.5 to 1, demonstrating the number of coaches employed were not out of line with teacher-pupil standards.
Why is having information like this important for district administrators and boards of education? It is important because over the years there have been drastic cuts from the Texas Legislature towards public school education. In 2006, the Legislature rolled back the tax rate in public schools and adopted a Targeted Revenue provision to provide an adequate education for Texas public schools. This hold-harmless scheme created big differences in tax yields for districts. The purpose of the Targeted Revenue Hold Harmless was to provide school districts with high funding levels under the pre-Hold Harmless law the ability to continue receiving funds at their previous level (Equity Center).
The low-funded districts have had a harsher impact on their school financing than the higher funded districts. The low wealth districts do not have the same access to the same dollars for education as the high wealth districts. An excellent example is Belton ISD as compared to Glen Rose ISD. The maximum tax rate in Belton (as specified by law, without a community vote) of $1.17 for Maintenance and Operations (M&O) raises $5,947 per Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA). On the other hand, a rate of only $0.825 in Glen Rose raises $8,895 per WADA. Just imagine how much Glen Rose would raise in taxes with Belton’s tax rate of $1.17.
Targeted Revenue gives property-wealthy districts unconstitutionally greater access to educational monies. Senate Bill 1 compounded this inefficient system in 2011 when the 82nd Legislature reduced public school funding formulas by $4 billion dollars. Then there were other reductions to regular school funding resulting in an additional reduction of $1.4 billion. These reductions resulted with Texas school districts losing $500 per pupil. In recent years, funds have been added back but it is still woefully inadequate.
The pandemic has caused school districts to lose funding because of students’ average daily attendance (ADA). Coupled with the Targeted Revenue system providing public schools inequitable and inefficient funding, it is vitally important for athletic programs to prove their worth with academic excellence, attendance, and high graduation rates.
Thought for the week, “Education cost money, but then so does ignorance.”
— Claus Moser
Dr. Jack Welch is a college football coach. He holds a Doctor of Education degree and has been a college and high school football coach for 39 years. He is author of Foundations of Coaching (2020) and can be reached at email@example.com.