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Texas school district turns out the Friday night lights

As Florida school districts struggle to keep their budgets balanced, they've looked to layoffs, pay freezes, even school closures. But cutting the cost of sports?

No way. The closest we've seen is when Duval considered the idea, but then backed off.

One financially strapped school district in Texas - yes, Texas, one of the few states where athletics are arguably bigger than in Florida - has taken that drastic step to save itself. From the NY Times:

The estimated $150,000 that the district would spend during the next year on spring and fall sports, including football, could no longer be justified.

"I couldn't let the district go down to save a particular program," [superintendent Ernest] Singleton said. "A year's suspension of sports, as painful as that is, it would be much more painful to shut down and not have sports ever again in a district that doesn't exist."

Back home here, we've heard many reasons why sports should be untouched. It's a dropout prevention program. It teaches kids lessons about self-discipline and teamwork. It keeps teens off the streets where they'd be unsupervised in the afternoons.

Instead, school boards cut positions and ask those who remain to work harder. They study moving to a four-day week. Sometimes they just wring their hands and say they don't know what they'll do. Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers have said they want to put $1 billion back into the schools, but school leaders say it likely won't be enough to fully eliminate another year of cuts.

Is it time to more seriously discuss cutting athletics yet?

[Photo by Eddie Seal for the NY Times/Texas Tribune]

Posted by Jeff Solochek at 9:14:25 am on January 27, 2012