The dedicated coaches and advisors who sustain the extracurricular programs on which our schools depend have issued an urgent appeal for help.
With just three weeks left in the year, all our Rim Country school districts have a desperate need for contributions through the Credit for Kids tax write-off program.
In Payson Unified School District, the board has warned the schools that all the extracurricular programs like sports, band, clubs and other vital activities may have to do without any support at all from the district next year — starting with the fall semester of 2014.
So those clubs are putting on an end-of-the year push in hopes this community will top its already generous support for schools through the Credit for Kids program.
The program allows a taxpaying couple to donate up to $400 to school programs, and knock that full amount off any tax owed. The athletic program alone costs some $230,000 annually, but raised just $100,000 last year through donations, gate fees and student participation fees.
Alarmingly, the school board has told the Payson athletic program that next year the district won’t cover either coaches’ stipends or transportation costs. That means the schools will need to roughly double the money from donations or face potentially drastic cuts in programs that not only bind together this community but yield tremendous benefits to students.
We’re not sure that’s even legal. Hopefully, an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office into similar requirements at a Chandler high school will clarify the law for things like coaches’ salaries. Clearly, relying on private donations for essential school programs raises constitutional questions about equal school funding and opportunities.
Programs like band, drama, sports and others not only keep kids in school, but boost academic performance, according to numerous studies. It would be foolish to eliminate such programs in the face of studies showing that Payson suffers an unusually high dropout rate and an unusually low college completion rate.
In the past, the district has cut funding to popular extra- curricular programs, knowing that students will work hard to raise the money to keep those programs intact. That has the effect of drawing extra support from the community, freeing up money for other urgent needs.
We cannot imagine that the district would be so reckless as to eliminate these important programs next year, no matter how great the financial stress.
But we know that our dear readers can eliminate even the alarming possibility by once again generously supporting our schools through the Credit for Kids program.