The Disturbing Trend of Spending More Money on Sports Than Education


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This is a disturbing trend in Alabama, and I am talking about sports and academics.  According to a AL.com article, every public Division I university in Alabama experienced athletic spending per college athlete grow at a faster rate than academic spending per student from 2007 to 2011.  If you think the spending differences between athletes and students are minor, you are wrong!  In 2011, the University of Alabama spent $191,730 per athlete while they spent only $15,664 per student for academics.  For the University of Auburn, in 2011 they spent $212,021 per athlete while they only spent $13,979 per student for academics.  Every other Division I school in Alabama had similar numbers.  This is a disturbing trend.

In every Division I school, athletic spending per athlete grew at a faster rate than academic spending per student from 2005 to 2011.  Yes I know Alabama, Auburn, and the other schools has a huge sports fanbase, and we go crazy for plays like the 2013 Iron Bowl Miracle, by the way that was crazy!

But universities and high schools should be focusing on academics more instead of athletics.  This is not only a problem for the universities, many high schools also spends more money on athletics instead on academics.  Is it because we only care about football and winning championships?  Or do we want to keep kids dumb while only caring about the ones who can play sports and win a championship?  A few days ago, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released results after they tested 15 year-olds in 65 countries and school systems with the Program for International Student Assessment.  Only 6,100 American students took this test, but the results were not good.

In the United States, just 9 percent of 15-year-olds scored in the top two levels of proficiency in math, compared with an average of 13 percent among industrialized nations and as high as 55 percent in Shanghai, 40 percent in Singapore, and 17 percent in Germany and Poland.  The United States underperformance was striking in math, where 29 countries or education systems had higher test scores.  In science, students in 22 countries did better than Americans, and in reading, 19 countries.  This should be a big wake up call.

Yes, there are people who are trying to improve the education system in America.  One great step is the Common Core State Standards which were developed by people in education, not by the Federal Government.  Try telling that to some people here in Alabama, especially the Tea Party who thinks the Common Core Standards were developed by the Federal Government to take over education, that’s not true!  I also think schools needs to be transformed where more career tech is taught and teachers are more prepared to teach our kids, if the teachers can not perform, they are let go, without a tenure.

One part that always strikes me, especially when I was in high school, was sports.  In the fall, football was the dominate thing.  On Fridays, the school schedule was cut short, and students were thinking about the game.  All the students were thinking about the pep rally and the game a few hours later.  Not much teaching was really going on during those days.  And yes, I experienced some days where we watched an average movie because the teacher was out sick or there was no lesson planned for the day.  Did I mention I was also bullied quite a bit?  I survived out of high school with the lowest diploma possible so I would not be held back and I am glad I am not in school anymore.

If you don’t believe cutting out sports out of schools will help out students, have you read a great article from The Atlantic?  In 2012, the Premont Independent School District suspended all sports including football.  Cutting out all sports allowed the school district to save $150,000 and spend more on academics and something big happened.  The school became more peaceful, the level of energy devoted to planning and lessons went up, and the students focused more on their school work instead of worrying about the next game.  More students passed their classes and test scores went up.  Today, sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else in the world.  American kids expect to participate in school sports as a kind of rite of passage.  What if all schools ended sports and instead celebrated academic achievement.  What if the newspapers highlighted school academics instead of the big sports game?

Sadly, we have some misplaced priorities.  The State of Alabama has placed more importance on athletics than academics for the past several decades.  The process begins with primary-school organized sports and continues through college.  The people who participate from primary school through college are likely to have numerous health problems and inadequate education to function as an adult but these people are very likely to be held as the example for new generations to follow.  The ones who don’t play sports are more likely to fall behind and struggle through life.  We have this in reverse, we should be helping the ones who fall through the cracks instead.

Folks wonder why this state is in the industrial and economic dumpster.  Our institutions of higher learning focus more on how many times someone scores a touchdown, than they focus on preparing and training students for the rigors and realities of high-tech industry.  What if schools in Alabama gave up sports and instead uses that money on education?  Students would perform better and they would be ready for the adult life.  But I am afraid we won’t see that happen anytime soon, because we must care about that upcoming football game.  Schools in Alabama and around the country need to change!

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