Could we be paying big bucks for high school sports and bands while cutting teachers and classroom support staff?

We’ve been having an interesting discussion. While lamenting the horrors of our harsh, deep annual cuts to education in DeKalb, we wondered why we are so focused on teachers and classrooms with nary a second look at sports spending.  We pondered the idea of creating ‘sports magnets’ – along the lines of magnet schools for high achievers, the arts, early college, etc. We have squabbled for years over the extra per pupil funding for these academic/arts magnets yet we have never questioned spending on middle and high school sports. Until now.

On the subject of our American love for sports, one of our contributors provided a link to the shocking chart below:

Infographic: Is Your State’s Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably)


And The Atlantic magazine online just this month posted an article titled, “The Case Against High-School Sports

It’s a fascinating article, comparing on the American love of sports with our overall lackluster academic results.

Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education. (The U.S. ranks 31st on the same international math test.) The challenges we do talk about are real ones, from undertrained teachers to entrenched poverty. But what to make of this other glaring reality, and the signal it sends to children, parents, and teachers about the very purpose of school?

In these days of harsh budget cuts to our classrooms year after year after year, isn’t it time we took a good hard look at what we are spending on our sports programs and perhaps think about consolidating some and eliminating others? Our SPLOST IV plans include rebuilding and/or renovating all of our football stadiums. Is that wise, considering that we still have schools with leaky roofs, broken HVAC systems and too few textbooks?

DSW will be filing an Open Records Request in order to find out exactly what is going on regarding sports spending in DeKalb. We will let you all know if and when we get an answer.



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35 Responses to Could we be paying big bucks for high school sports and bands while cutting teachers and classroom support staff?

  1. idabelle25 says:

    If we have cut teacher salaries and have them paying full premiums while also increasing class sizes and not touch a dime in the sports dept., our priorities are really messed up. But I can name several areas of unnecessary spending that this county before athletics as this site has pointed out several times. I find value in team sports for many reasons but I do think this speaks to a bigger problem we have in America or particularly the South. It is a shame when a young man gets more accolades for breaking the cycle of poverty for throwing a ball in this society than for spending the same amount of time training his mind and breaking the cycle through obtaining a high SAT score and getting into the best colleges and I am afraid many schools perpetuate this. For example, I won’t name the school but I walked into a Dekalb County HS and so an impressive what seemed to be a mile long trophy case and pictures of alumni all about sports and in a back hallway on a simple bulletin board was a few names of kids who accomplished academic success. What does this say to impressionable young people walking through your doors? Maybe that to be smart might be lame and to be a coveted sports hero is what is important . In a school, really!!!

  2. Excellent point. I have always thought sports programs should not be run by our schools. Can’t wait to see the numbers.

  3. Bye bye says:

    The numbers will be interesting. It would also be interesting to do a comparison with other systems. Here is why.
    Long ago, a decision was made in city of Atlanta and in DeKalb to share stadiums. I have no idea why this decision was made but imagine that it made finding locations for high schools easier.
    In major systems in Metro Atlanta, the revenue produced at each high school stadium stays with the athletic program. Additionally, at least at some schools, the concession stand is operated by different groups within the schools for the entire school benefit. This concession stand at Northview high school for example, makes a fortune for the different arts programs each season.
    There are a few places around the country that I think don’t have athletic programs. Generally, recreational and travel leagues probably step into fill the void. At the end of the day, this probably means lots of kids don’t get to participate, but if it means more resources going to the schools perhaps that is the best solution.

  4. PSDad says:

    I wonder how many of those against public school athletic programs actually participated in athletics as a child. Personally, I can attest to the positive impact that these programs had on my personal development and self-image. There are many kids (myself included) who don’t learn concepts like planning, strategy, team building through a traditional setting. I participated in athletics all through middle school and high school, and was in college before I started to recognize that the practice, planning, and discipline that I developed in my athletic pursuits would provide similar success/satisfaction when carried over to my academic and career pursuits. If for nothing else, school sponsored sports keep the kids at school a little longer and give them something productive to do with what would be otherwise idle time. There is no doubt in my mind that if I didn’t participate in school sponsored sports, I would have found many less productive ways to spend that time. I have a few family members and over a dozen friends who teach and coach at high schools in the southeast and Midwest. My experience is that they all coach for the love of the sport and the satisfaction of watching their kids thrive out of the classroom. I would guess that they get paid anywhere from $0 to $2500 extra for their services, an amount that doesn’t begin to compensate for their contribution. All of the coaches I know have a limited budget, most maintain their own field, raise a significant amount of the money for new equipment and travel from boosters (more time committed). I suspect that this is a fruitless pursuit. If there is data on what it costs to support these programs, I’m sure there will be a few examples of waste, but overall I suspect that most will be surprised by what little support these programs receive from the school system.

  5. Former Dekalb teacher says:

    PSDad, I agree with a lot of what you said, but I think you will be surprised at how much coaches are paid–above and beyond their teaching salaries. I recall the head basketball coach at my former school stating that his stipend was “only” about $5000. He also pointed out, though, that his “per hour” pay, including practice time, was quite low. Can’t argue with him there.

    This article gives the LOWEST GA football coach’s salary as about $4500 but also states that a school’s athletic director (often the football coach) would get that much on top of his coaching stipend. Since this article references actual coaches and their salaries, I am guessing it’s pretty accurate.

  6. Just a note of clarification: We are not saying to end sports! We are wondering if sports programs could be consolidated or ‘magnetized’ to save money – just the same as we have been doing in all other classrooms! Does every school need to field every kind of sports team? We have cut our core business: Educating students in the classrooms — to the bone! Yet, not much has been cut or consolidated from the sports budget. In fact, SPLOST IV calls for all new stadiums! Before we do that – planning how to track and spend that revenue could be a good idea. And we think the public is entitled to know exactly what that budget looks like.

    As aside: It’s so interesting to us that so many more (new) people come to the blog to squawk about the mere possibility of merging or trimming sports programs, yet really, so few are vocal when these cuts are actually made year after year directly to the classrooms. Perhaps that is why the annual cuts keep happening in the classrooms…

  7. Former Dekalb teacher says:

    DSW, did you really just say that very few come to this blog to voice opposition to classroom cuts–and that’s part of the reason the cuts keep happening? I mean no disrespect, but really–I can’t imagine that you believe that to be true.

  8. No – I mean, the administration “KNOWS” that there would be far more outcry if they made cuts to sports than the classroom. Yes, many, many more people would complain about that and the staff would back down. Thus – the cuts continue to the classroom – because the complaints are not as vocal. (And it even shows here on the blog — whenever we talk sports – our stats go way up and we get a whole bunch of ‘new’ contributors.) Face it – in reality, we are out-numbered. Sports rules. (With a school of the performing arts running a very close second.) Even though the whole reason we collect taxes for education is to ‘educate’ all students.

  9. Former Dekalb teacher says:

    I guess my point was that in this current administration, it doesn’t seem to matter who complains or what they complain about–it all falls on the same deaf ears. Then again (not meaning to open this can of worms but just using it as an example) the Fernbank folks seem to be “heard,” so maybe you are right.

  10. Fred in DeKalb says:

    DSW, I disagree with your statement regarding a greater outcry of cuts to sports over the classroom. The sports lobby is vocal however as we saw when the discussions were on closing and consolidating buildings, in some cases it pitted communities against communities. It has been said many times but DeKalb has more buildings than any other school district in the state. Gwinnett has almost 60K more students than DeKalb yet fewer buildings. When the administration presented recommendations for closing and consolidating schools, we really saw what citizens think about making tough decisions.

    Many talk about the tough decisions that need to be made on behalf of the school district however when the administrations looks to implement them, they always seem to encounter obstacles.

  11. PHDJTM says:

    For now, can we just stop starting more fires. How about spending that energy looking for a Superintendat?

  12. thedeal2 says:

    I like the idea of magnetized sports, as long as there are as many opportunities as there are when the sports are in each individual school.

    I have strong feelings about the fact that school sports keep some kids engaged in school that wouldn’t normally be engaged.

    I don’t think it’s a classroom vs athletic fiscal battle, though. I think this is a “made-up” battle. The money spent on athletics is small relative to other ridiculous expenditures, like central office, salaries, trips to Las Vegas to view eSIS alternatives. In other words, the money spent on sports is not what is depriving our classrooms.

    Sports benefit the students directly. Granite countertops and flowers in the central office bathrooms do not. It is very clear that this system still prioritizes its adults over its children.

  13. Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing the map!

    I tend to agree that there truly is funding to support healthy academics and athletic programs. Unfortunately, our leaders have been breeding a “scarcity” mentality for decades and that has us conditioned. We are like the boys in “Lord of the Flies” desperate to find survival culture to give us comfort from all the terrible challenges DCSD touts regularly.

    And for those that read the Atlantic piece shared by Fred (a nice read), also please see:

    I don’t think I have a vision of our kids as the Korean model. I have seen the products of both educational system in the workplace and this approach does not produce the talent or the thinking we need for many roles. Just something to keep in mind!

  14. Teachermom says:

    I personally have nothing against having high school sports. I do have a problem with neighborhood schools becoming unofficial sports magnets with a reduced focus on academics. Especially when students are allegedly (if you will) recruited from poorly performing schools to fill my neighborhood school.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    Sports in high schools do have a key role in our schools. They are at the heart of building school spirit, teaching teamwork, and providing a different type of learning experience.

    My strong belief is that Dekalb County is already providing the financial resources for our students to have an both an excellent academic and excellent extracurricular experience. Our school system, however, has been squandering those resources on frivolous projects – cars for administrators, unnecessary legal expenses, high administrative expenses, funding wasteful projects such as funding a new strategic study when one was just completed two years ago, spending time and money to respond to complaints and inquiries from accrediting agencies, paying two superintendent salaries when we only have one superintendent, paying legal expenses for an indicted former superintendent, paying extraordinary severance packages to failed administrators, paying two law firms to insure that there is a balance between black and white, etc., etc. We have the financial resources to do whatever we want to do in Dekalb County. We have the third largest school district in the State and the highest millage rate in the State.

    The major issue that we face is how to deal with an inept, incompetent, and disconnected administration. We desperately need a new competent, aggressive school board that will take an active role in cleaning up Dekalb County. We need a new, competent, permanent, experienced superintendent who can set goals and insist on performance. It is readily apparent that we need to clean house at the palace – it has failed and failed miserably. They have not managed the available resources nor have they set priorities properly. They have focused on the wrong things at the expense of focusing on the right things. They have focused on cars, which arrived on time, but not on textbooks and computers, which did not.

    We the People need to start next July and clean house beginning with the school board! We need to find a school board that will set as a first priority the task of finding a new superintendent that would be selected based entirely on qualifications for that job without any consideration of race, color, or gender. Then we need to get out of the way. Change, change out, and change up!

  16. Coach says:

    I do not know what the county spends on sports as a whole, but I do know what coaches make. I coach soccer and swim at a Dekalb High School, and it is peanuts. Coaches make around 2300 per season for most sports. Football and basketball get a little more, around 4000 to 5000. When you figure it out hourly my “stipend” comes out to an hourly rate of about 9 dollars which is crazy low. We do not coach for the money needless to say. The county does not give us much for supplies or uniforms or anything like that either. I think most schools get a few bucks for unis every 3 or 4 years, mostly everything is paid for by dues from the students. The bus expenditure might be the biggest thing.

    Sports are great for our students, they promote character. One item that might need to be looked at is how easy it is to be academically eligible here in Dekalb. I am not positive, but I think you only have to pass half of your classes, which is too low and does not promote academic success.

  17. Dekalbite2 says:

    Some very good news regarding the placement of cell towers on school property. Lee may has said no to the cell towers.

    I’ve already emailed Mr. May to express my thanks. If you want to do the same, here is his email:

  18. Blindsided says:

    DeKalb Special Olympics was virtually eliminated in 2012, and was the ONLY athletic/recreation venue provided by DKSD for special needs athletes prior to being cut. It would seem proportionate to eliminate/consolidate ‘regular ed’ athletic programs to fund decreased student/teacher ratios, and classroom support.

  19. midvaledad says:

    I just accidentally came across this. It is from 2011 like most of the DCSD website.

    Click to access handbook.pdf

  20. acheolus says:

    Please remember that most aspects of our high school athletics, arts, and clubs are sponsored through fees and fundraisers. DeKalb does very little when compared to Fayette, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, or Rockdale in terms of funding or maintaining stadiums, transportation for events, equipment replacement, or other items.

  21. Good idean PHDJTM. However, WE have no power to do so.

  22. To add to Howdy’s statement: We need to elect a Board that will make it their primary job to search for and hire an experienced, professional, education-focused superintendent. The current board has no intention of doing so. Replace them all.

  23. @Blindsided: We agree. In case you missed it, we had a blog post on the cuts to Special Olympics at the time:
    Coldhearted cuts are the last straw

    We all need to stand up for each other. Just because one group that doesn’t effect your child gets deep cuts doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak out. We were disappointed in the people whose children do get extras in DCSS who sat quietly as these Special Education children endured these deep cuts to just about the only extra-curricular activity available to them.

  24. Just Saying says:


    I know this may be off of the subject, but would someone address the condition of our schools. I think that all areas would agree that our buildings are in awful condition. My school has large cans in the hall to catch the water from the ceiling roofs and AC leaks. Our TOTY went to the teacher forum and she reported back that so many teachers were complaining about a lack of air, ceiling tiles falling from the ceiling, poor response from Plant Services and MIS. I know that our principal reports the problems to his Region Superintendent and nothing is done.
    We have five great custodians. They work very hard. They often cannot get the supplies and equipment that they need. Our principal tries very hard, but he does not get an answer.
    He told us that he was informed this summer that each Region would get a report about the repairs being made each month. Well that has never occurred.
    We are still waiting to get chairs and desk for our some of our classes. We have computers that cannot connect to the internet. MIS comes on Monday and does something and then another thing breaks on Tuesday, remember the CTSS were one of the jobs that were cut by the previous superintendent. What is the use of having wireless and the computers do not work?
    We have bigger class sizes. We have a decrease in pay. No money is being added to our TSA. The cost of our insurance has gone higher. We are limited in the insurance that we can pick.
    We have 12 new teachers at our school. Everyone is trying hard to help them. But, then you have to move out of your classroom due to a lack of air, and your student computers do not work, You leave late and their are no security lights working it does not say much for our school system. Oh yes we had a great Teacher Support Specialist and AP., they both left for other school systems this summer.
    Please ask people to report about the state of their buildings and their technology. I am sure that you will be surprised at what people have to deal with each day to teach our students.

  25. howdy1942 says:

    @Just Saying – thanks for your honest comments! My understanding of SPLOST is that it is specifically supposed to fix the problems that you cited. It is just very sad that we have a school board, a superintendent, and an administration that does not seem to be focused on using SPLOST for the purposes it was intended. We need a school board full of Nancy Jesters that would be all about understanding where our dollars are being spent and demanding action of a superintendent to fix the issues such as those you cited. We have enough dollars to do the job right. Our problem is that we can’t seem to understand our priorities, set the focus on them, and get the job done. I agree wholeheartedly with @DSW – We the People will have an opportunity next July to fix this problem. At that time, we can elect a completely new school board that would first fine a new, permanent, qualified, competent school superintendent whose selection would be based on those criteria and not on race or gender. It is time for the People of Dekalb County, who I maintain are good, decent, and want to do the right thing, to stand up and clean up the mess that we now have.

  26. Please tell us the name of the school to which you are referring. By not identifying the school, you are inadvertently providing “cover” for Thurman, Tyson and the uncaring, incompetent others at the Palace. If you will send photos, we will publish those, too. Don’t make a big deal out of taking photos. Just use your cell phone. You can snap photos quickly and surreptitiously. Please do not send photos that include students or staff. You may send the name of the school and the photos to DSW’s e-mail — We will not identify you.

  27. Stan Jester says:

    Called DeKalb Schools Board Meeting
    Wed @ 4pm
    * Approval of Tapestry Public Charter Schools
    * MLA Board Governance Presentation

    09/09/2013 Board Meeting
    I’ve release my analysis of the HR Report and Financial Report. The approval of Tapestry Charter was a fascinating discussion and was tabled at the last board meeting. I’ll get that analysis up shortly.

  28. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW2, I have heard of buckets being used to catch dripping rainwater in the hallways of Sequoyah MS.

  29. concerned citizen says:

    There are buckets in “my” school, too. I’m willing to bet there are “buckets” in every school: reason: no maintenance at all. We’re all lucky to have the students’ restrooms cleaned, and that takes a lot of prodding from the school administration. And consider this, a lot of schools use misbehaving students to work detail, which means the school is already saying that the students will not achieve beyond the custodial level. BIG TIME! I have many students seem to enjoy this experience of pulling trash and swabbing down the restrooms to give the custodians a break! Not that I am unsympathetic. It’s all too much – the incompetent administration and the internal machines who don’t care what happens to the teachers or student. May God have Mercy on all the teachers and students in this horrible school system! The worst ever!

  30. PSDad says:

    DCSS elected to (finally) replace the HVAC at Montgomery this year, but instead of doing the construction during the summer our brilliant administrators decided to schedule the start of construction to coincide with the state of the school year. Fourth and Fifth grade students (in this already crowded school) were supposed to be displaced into trailers at the start of the school year to accommodate the construction schedule. Unfortunately, these students cannot be relocated to the mobile classrooms yet because DCSS hasn’t received occupancy certificates from the county. How many weeks into the school year are we now?.

  31. formerDeKalbAlso says:

    It is my understanding that DeKalb Athletics does not cost the county any money. They are funded thru gate receipts. Also, I know that as far as three years ago the Athletic Department cut athletic competitions on the jv level to save money. I believe the figure game out to over $100,000.

  32. That’s interesting that you have this ‘understanding’. We just would like to actually see hard numbers. This includes uniforms, training and transportation for ALL sports. Surely the athletic department keeps records…

  33. Quagmire says:

    Good luck with getting all the numbers. I wonder if Mr Dunson has a clue and keeps records since he is the former area supt and now athletic director. There seems to be a discrepancy between schools. It was pretty sad to see the state of the Sequoyah football cheerleader uniforms at the game this Saturday. Looks like the girls were wearing a variety of uniforms. How is the money distributed? On another note, is my understanding that the trailers are in awful shape at Peachtree Middle. The AC was out for a couple of weeks in one of them and there’s no wireless connection. Not the same opportunities as those inside the building. Get rid of them. The lockers look recycled and kids joke that they can climb through windows because they are not secured. What’s the history on these trailers? Do they have a “car fax” for them? 🙂

  34. UPDATE: It looks like we’ll never know. We filed an Open Records request and got the following response:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    This letter is in response to your Open Records Act request to the DeKalb County School District (“School District”), dated September 29, 2013. You specifically requested:

    “…all detailed financial files and records for the current school year (2013-2014) and the previous two (2) school years (2012-2013; 2011-2012) for all DeKalb County Schools varsity sports income and expenditures, identified by sport.”

    Effective with the 2012-2013 school year, the Athletics department has maintained financial records detailing revenues and expenses for each sport. These records do not exist for the 2011-2012 school year or prior. In accordance with O.C.G.A § 50-18-71(b)(1)(A) and § 50-18-71(c)(1), the School District estimates it will take at least forty business days and cost at least $2400 to retrieve and review the requested records for school years 2013-2014 and 2012-2013.

    In accordance with O.C.G.A § 50-18-71(d), the School District will defer production of your request until you pay the estimated cost.

    Search, retrieval, review of records:
    80 Hours @ $30/hour $ 2400.00
    Pages @ $0.10/page
    Estimated Mailing Cost $ 5.00
    Total Cost $ 2400.00

    Please mail a copy of this invoice, along with a check for the full amount of $2400.00, made payable to:
    DeKalb County Board of Education
    Attn: Audrey Qualls
    Office of Legal Affairs
    1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd.
    Stone Mountain, GA. 30083

    So… unless someone coughs up $2,400.00, to pay for the 80 hours of time it would take to research this, we will never have a report telling us just how much is spent on athletics. Silly us… we thought these would be records that were maintained at all times — and we could get a report with the click of a button (like most businesses do). Truth be told, we really didn’t hold out hope that they actually kept decent records. Certainly no one on staff has a clue how to use Quick Books… Oh well.

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