Why isn’t there more funding for high school sports?

Many, if not every, high school offers a wide range of seasonal sports for their students to select from. Any student is welcome to join, but whether they can afford it or not is something else to consider.

This 2022-23 school year, Glen A. Wilson High School (GAWHS), has suffered a fundraiser drought. Some causes for this may include difficulty with winding back to normalcy in the aftermath of the pandemic or new food regulations set by the district that deters Club Food days. Nonetheless, school sports are being negatively affected by the lack of fundraising. Where certain Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways receive funds sufficient to incorporate more technology into the curriculum and enhance the learning environment, extracurricular sports appear to be less directly financed.

Public high school sports need more state funding since they foster an important aspect of adolescent education and health. Relying too much on the student community to finance activities puts a strain on parents and already broke high school students.

The fine arts and sports are some of the most underfunded areas despite how cognitively and socially enriching they are. They offer students something that their lecture and note-taking classes cannot. Among the 38 countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is reportedly ranked 6th  highest in the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) delegated to funding education. If funding public school education is such a high priority for the country, then the fine arts and sports sectors should be equally prioritized. 

One research paper focused on the field of educational administration examines how sports and art affect the fields of social, cognitive and emotional learning. Authors Fatemeh Talebzadeh and Parivash Jafari state, “One of the important aspects of art which is also one of the educational objectives is to make children appreciate others.” Art has the potential to foster empathy among peers and decrease the likelihood of negative emotions like rage, hatred and aggression from occurring. In a high school environment where students are changing and discovering themselves frequently, art helps in healing inner turmoil and understanding the world. 

The paper concludes for sports: “…enriched environment, intelligence, play and physical activity help adolescents to communicate and cooperate with others, and therefore they can experience, think and develop their senses, and also gain cognitive and emotional development.” Clearly, being involved in sports benefits students in more ways than one, not to mention the obvious plus of exercise which has a positive impact on physical and mental health, with improved memory and other cognitive functions among them.

In addition, in an article from the National Federation of State High School Associations, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Enid Public Schools Dr. Sam Robinson mentions, “Student success later in life has been shown to be closely related, and tied to, participation in athletics and fine arts.”

Even with all the facts laid out, individual student improvement is not enough persuasion for state governments to dole out financial support. Dr. Robinson also explains, “Many times, the funding can be nonexistent and most of the time is not specifically earmarked for expenditures through state legislatures or local board policy.” Yet, it is interesting that CTE pathways receive funding from both the state and national governments. One reason for this may be that investing in CTE pathways increases the likelihood that students in them will pursue those careers after graduation, thus contributing to the economy. 

But just as these opportunities are key to students’ educations, so are sports. As we have examined, sports indirectly impact students’ approach to life in many ways. Citing Dr. Robinson, “Leaders in government, business and industry often give credit to their participation in athletics and fine arts activities for their current successes.” If more state and government funding was poured directly into school sports, they would potentially see more young, successful people who have benefitted from the extracurricular support.

Unfortunately, because sports are not viewed on remotely the same level as other subjects, funding falls entirely on family members or the local community. In 2013, a TurboTax survey revealed that parents of middle schoolers and high schoolers spend an average of $671 per year to pay for their kids’ uniforms, registration fees and lessons or coaching. Of those parents, at least 20 percent spend over $1000 per child annually. Because of this, deciding whether to participate in sports at school has become less a matter of whether you are interested and more of a conversation about if your family has the financial backing to make it a possibility. 

The fundraisers held at GAWHS usually come in two forms, with the more popular between them being an on-campus sale (usually of food) aimed at students. However, this type of fundraiser has been limited in the current school year and are not helped by strict regulation from the district’s new nutrition guidelines prohibiting certain caloric contents to be served during school hours. One issue with relying on these is that extracurricular activities pay out of pocket for the food they sell, and they are trying to recoup the money up until a certain point. How much food exactly would they have to buy and sell for fundraising an impactful sum for their sports team? 

The other method for sports to raise money is through off-campus partnerships with a restaurant where a percentage of the profit made from GAWHS customers goes to the team. But since these partnerships are reliant on student athletes’ families or GAWHS students, fundraising can be inconsistent and insufficient. Even if sports teams can attract a large social circle in a fundraiser, are the percentages extracted from sales enough to alleviate several hundred dollars from each player’s dues?

And it is not the rest of the student body’s fault either. If you do not know anyone from a sports team, why would you spend your own money on food just so they can earn a small portion of it? High school students make very little money as it is; inconveniencing themselves every time a fundraiser occurs is an unreasonable expectation.

In truth, both ways of fundraising are unwieldy methods that barely bring in enough money to take off the financial burden of being a student-athlete while also placing a lot of responsibility on other high school students to be their peers’ main sources of funding. 

Sports funding is disastrous. The fine arts and sports have been lacking in funding for so long, unrecognized by their communities and governments as educational enrichment. Extracurricular sports bond team players, giving students friendship and a sense of belonging, while teaching a variety of soft skills key for life after high school. 

It is quite sad seeing the big picture—that is, the government and organizations only fund school activities that they view as more profitable to society. But at the end of the day, those subjects are not what teaches teenagers in a transitional phase of life how to work together with others and strive for excellence outside of the classroom.

Students can still practice sports and art in their own time to develop formative skills, but bringing attention to the collective progress that would occur if funding directly impacted a high school’s entire student body is equally as important to advocate for.

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