School Choice: Athletics or Academics

04/01/2015 04:13 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

Here are essentially the last 6 months of stories coming out of my School District (Methacton):

  • The continuing 50 year old arguments over lighting a football field.
  • The proposed closing of 2 elementary schools.
  • The hiring of a manager of transportation for a bus system that has been outsourced.
  • The tweeting by an alum about a female little league baseball player that got the alum kicked off his college baseball team.
  • The ground-breaking for a new turf athletic field this weekend.

The last part of 2014 was populated with a long series of meetings that taxpayers had to pay to produce; from professional staff to the lawyers making the arguments that kids should not have to play football in the dark. The school district won a Pyrrhic victory when the town fathers decided to allow lights at the football stadium only after large scale fencing and shrubberies are installed. So it will probably cost a couple of million to put the lights up and turned on - ONLY because of the legal wrangling.

We'll skip the school closings for now.

The All-GOP Methacton School Board has been hot to outsource everything they can. We have "Conservatives" running the show who think everything needs to monetized from the food services to the bus services. They got rid of both over the last couple of years, but a couple of weeks ago the board was ready to appoint a new transportation manager for $100,000. (Stupid question - Why do you need a manager for an outsourced service?)

Turns out, the guy they wanted to hire was from the bus company where the district just wrote the outsourcing contract. Even better, the job was initially offered to a woman who was the assistant manager (she was doing the job for close to 25 years) for less than $60,000. She said she would do it for $70,000 and they told her no.

After the public asked some pointed questions, the school board just hired another guy for $82,000. Today's lesson in gender pay equity is: The Methacton School District pays women making 73% of what a man makes (60k/82k). I guess that is progress since the National General Gender Discount Rate (GGDR) is 70%? A definite improvement over the 60% they WERE trying to get away with.

We'll skip over the alum's tweet to Mo'ne for now.

That brings us to the great grand groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday for a $1,700,000 athletic field project that was promised back in 2011. The project still has a reported $500,000 shortfall associated with it, but what is money?

Place this in context of the proposed closing of 2 elementary schools. (Cynically they reduced it to one school after enough people stood up to say WHAT THE HECK is going on here.)

The claims and rationales for closing the schools were:

  • Methacton spent too much money on a middle school that may never get fully used.
  • We don't have enough new students coming into the district. (Ironically, Lower Providence is thinking about approving a large housing project on top of a chemically contaminated site.)

We are told none of this has to do with one school (the one they are talking about closing) sitting on a very valuable piece of property that some in the township have envisioned a nice hotel complex. Obviously, it would be tacky for that to come into anyone's mind.

But you know, education, I guess, is about imparting values.

The values that come from athletic departments getting all they need for their facilities, but failing to coach the kids to act right. (Yes, I am going there. If the school district is going to promote values those alums directly and intimately trained in sports will reflect those values.)

I have no problem with high school sports. All three of mine played in high school for Methacton and the coaches they had, for the most part, did an outstanding job training them with the right value systems. The coaches they had - had their heads screwed on straight. One of mine is actually coaching at the collegiate level now.

But, you have to look at the values of an elementary school education being eroded by the sports programs. There is pressure being brought on by the Charter School System. Many of these schools are not playing big price tag sports like football. They don't need stadiums.

It is time to question the resources being outlaid to sports programs when elementary educational programs are being curtailed. The T1 (Transitional First) Program my sons used is no longer offered. Neither is a full slate of German being offered or late buses.

So when the ground breaks for a promised athletic field, are we burying the elementary schools under football cleats?

What you pay for is what you value.

What are our values?