Budget cuts could leave school sports programs in a pinch
Reduced state funding might leave many school districts looking for places to trim their budgets — including their athletic programs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Scores & stats
Lenny Gomez knows what sports mean to at-risk kids.
He was one of them while growing up in Kent in the 1980s and '90s.
Many kids "don't get the pat on the back at home or around their friends that they do with sports," said Gomez, who coaches youth football with the Kent Knights and is an assistant coach at Kent-Meridian High School. "It just means a lot for them. ... It's huge."
When Gomez heard the Kent School District might be forced to eliminate some middle-school and lower-level high-school sports programs for the 2009-10 school year to help meet anticipated budget cuts, he was dismayed. So was Steve Delvo, another youth football and wrestling coach who has had five children graduate from Kentwood High School after participating in everything from football to volleyball to dance and cheer.
Delvo said the elimination of programs "would be devastating. I'm sure you'd see the dropout rate go up, the crime rate go up and probably see the divorce rate go up."
The Kent School Board went public Wednesday night with a list of potential budget options should the district's state funding be reduced by the anticipated $12 million to $16 million — "a worst-case scenario," according to Dave Lutes, district athletic director. Options to be considered total more than $30 million, including $716,000 from athletic programs.
Potential athletic cuts include eliminating all seventh-grade and junior varsity teams at middle schools, all ninth-grade and sophomore teams at high schools as well as high-school junior varsity swimming, golf, tennis and cross country and the district's high-school judo program.
Kent community members can voice their opinions at two work sessions, Feb. 24 and Feb. 26.
Lutes said if budget cuts in the district are inevitable, athletics will feel the pinch.
"I think the athletic program needs to be a part of the solution," he said.
At Kentwood, more than 600 students participate in athletics, a number that could be reduced by one-third to one-half if there are cuts.
"I and all my coaches believe that athletics plays an important part in preparing them for their future as people in our society," Kentwood athletic director Jo Anne Daughtry said. "People look at the X's and O's, but that's certainly not what we're all about."
Marty Osborn, Kentridge football coach, said he realizes cuts might be a reality, "but the biggest fear is that you lose programs. That's what everyone wants to avoid."
Other school districts, like Auburn and Northshore, made changes within the last two years in anticipation of budget shortfalls. Auburn eliminated sophomore teams. Northshore raised "pay-to-play" fees from $90 per athlete to $150 to avoid cutting junior-high programs. Talks of possible budget cuts are under way in the Snohomish School District, AD Mark Albertine said, "but everything is conjecture until the state comes out with this budget." He did say "some cost-saving measures" are likely, especially where travel is concerned.
Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, said he has been working with school superintendents throughout the state on cutback possibilities, "but it's kind of a hodgepodge, because everyone has different kinds of issues."
Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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