It would be counterintuitive to trim the Wallingford education budget by slashing sports programs.
Financial reductions are necessary after Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. countered the Board of Education’s proposed 2014-15 budget ($94.23 million, a 4.36-percent increase) with an increase of just 2.23 percent. To match his directive, academic administrators have already removed all new programs and initiatives from their fiscal plan. However, they must still cut an additional $515,550.
One option under consideration is to eliminate middle school sports, and reduce athletics at the high school. But that would be a cut too far.
As argued by Town Councilor John LeTourneau in our April 13 news story, such a reduction seems hypocritical. In recent years, through various campaigns, Wallingford schools have urged students to pursue healthy lifestyles through nutritious eating habits. To support nutrition, but then scale back athletics, would send a mixed message. Being physically active on a regular basis, combined with eating nutritiously, is the best recipe for good health.
Moreover, sports, as extracurricular activities, are a valuable use of students’ time. Without these after-school programs, youths may be tempted to leap off the school bus and land in front of a TV or computer screen. Or, they may take part in other activities even more detrimental to their well-being. Athletics are a constructive alternative to sedentary and/or unhealthy activities, while instilling in kids lessons as meaningful as anything taught in classrooms.
Sports teach the importance and benefits of cooperation, integrity, effort, grit, belief, patience, and selflessness. Playing on an athletics team is an excellent, natural way to build character and confidence. Lessons learned in youth leagues are applicable beyonds the courts and fields and can help participants attain success later as an adult in the workplace. It would be unfortunate to limit opportunities in Wallingford for kids to mature in a such positive environment.
BOE members would be wise keep in mind the negative ramifications of this potential loss. Other budget cuts are worth exploring before athletics. Or, Dickinson could reconsider his counterproposal and reinstate enough finances to continue sports programs in current form. If municipalities must raise taxes, among the best investments is to support the comprehensive education of students — a system of development in which school sports plays a substantial role.