As boards of education sit, white-knuckled, waiting - and waiting - for the legislature and Gov. Malloy to agree on a state budget, Berlin’s board is looking at funding alternatives.
One of them is “pay to play” - sports, that is.
The idea is always controversial, since some parents are more able than others to write a check for their son or daughter’s activity, a concern that is especially burdensome if the family has more than one child. One solution mentioned was allowing students on free and reduced lunch to play for free.
But, fundamentally, the question is whether athletics are a part of the core curriculum and therefore part of a free public education. Parents will differ on this question, especially those whose children have no interest in basketball or field hockey or its more expensive cousin, ice hockey. Others will note that team participation and the guidance of a good coach can make all the difference in keeping a young person on the straight and narrow. And still others will point to the cost of other activities, such as the necessity to buy an instrument to participate in band or orchestra.
Moreover, we know that parents whose children are involved in any extracurricular activity give a lot in time and the many extras that go with participating. The drives back and forth to practice and games, the contributions to fundraisers, the cost of uniforms or that white dress shirt for concerts.
We understand that someone will point out that none of these things should be the taxpayer’s responsibility. And that may be true. But a good school system, one that meets the needs of every child, increases the character of a community, and economically, everyone’s property values.
And if it keeps kids interested in school, it’s a small investment in more productive, and happier, lives.