In March, Prep Rally wrote about the high likelihood that schools in Jacksonville would have to abandon school sports as a whole to close the burgeoning budget deficit facing the Duval County School District. It now appears that Jacksonville is hardly alone, with a district in North Carolina emerging as the latest to consider identical drastic measures.
According to the News & Observer, the Lee County School District is currently considering a proposal that would either severely cut back or eliminate all interscholastic athletics, including the Lee County (N.C.) Senior High football team, pictured above. Lee Senior principal Greg Batten ensured that the decision to cut all sports wouldn't be taken lightly, but he also insisted that it was one of the proposals that was firmly on the table for discussion.
"We know the value of athletics," Batten told the News & Observer. "We know that athletics teach great values, enhance the schools and benefit children. We know all the great things that athletics do.
"But our leaders are facing tough decisions."
Unlike Jacksonville, which knows the certain and drastic budget cuts it faces, Lee has yet to be given its final budget numbers for the 2011-12 school year. With that uncertainty, the school district has prepared three different fiscal budgets which account for cuts of three, five and 10 percent relative to the district's 2010-11 budgets.
The three and five percent cuts will only trim the district's athletic offerings, but the 10 percent cut is made up largely by completely eliminating high school sports.
"Lee County is like every other county in North Carolina," Batten told the News & Observer. "We're waiting to see what the state budget will provide for public education. Our superintendent has prepared budgets that include cuts from the state of 3 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent.
"With a 10 percent cut, one of the options is cutting high school athletic programs. We're trying to be proactive and let our students and parents know there could be important changes."
The district will have to wait to see if the drastic cuts to athletics it has prepared are necessary, but it knows the kind of trickle down ramifications cutting sports can have.
Batten himself said that 31 of the school's top 50 students from the 2010 graduating class were varsity athletes, a factor he and his colleagues are wary to overlook.
Yet, given how drastic budget cuts are in any number of districts around the country, Batten and others in similar positions might not have many other options.
- Duval County School District