Tom Danehy usually has a pretty good eye for reality. But in his rant about parents who pay for their kids to play sports on competitive teams ("Not Worth It," April 18), he really missed the boat.
I'd like to know what part of town Mr. Danehy lives in, where "There are plenty of opportunities for kids to play ball for their school teams and if they want more, they can play at the park or the playground...." I suspect there's no Sun-Tran bus for my kid to get there.
Where we live, my 12-year-old son's school does not offer most team sports in sixth grade and the teams in seventh and eighth grade have very short seasons. The nearest park is Mehl--four miles away--and the school discourages after-school use of the facilities.
Anyway, I don't know what adolescents Danehy knows, but I can assure him, neither my son nor any of his friends would organize pickup team sports should I be foolish enough to turn him loose for 4-5 hours of unsupervised time on a regular basis. No, he and his friends would be watching MTV, playing PlayStation or downloading God-knows-what garbage from the Internet. If I forced them outside, they would find some unsuspecting property owner's vacant lot and build 3-foot-high dirt piles to kill themselves jumping their bikes over. Or they'd be grinding their skateboards across ledges, steps and handrails at the local church, school, or shopping center. And it would only be a matter of time before there would be dope smoking.
Maybe Mr. Danehy will find a way to criticize me for failing to shield my kid from the entire youth culture. But I secretly admire the skater culture and the books I read tell me kids need to rebel and do stuff their parents find obnoxious. I just want to limit the time he spends and expose him to other values he can get from team sports.
So my kid plays soccer. And yes, we pay to put him on a competitive team so instead of playing the five-month season available through the Pima County Junior Soccer League, he plays for 10 months, three to four days a week. And yes, we pay a coach to supervise that 40 hours a week for 10 months because there are too few parents who played soccer enough to be able to coach kids past age 8. Even in baseball, there are few parents who can or will commit time to coach past the four-month Little League season. We also choose a coach and a club that hold an "open" citywide tryout for the team, guaranteeing that any kid with the skill and dedication will get on the team, if necessary as a "scholarship" player whose costs are covered by fund raising by the club and other parents.
And yes, we want to win. That's one of the values learned in sports, but I'm a realist. My kid won't spend 3-4 days a week playing on a consistently losing team. And I'm not dopey enough to think he'll play college ball. I just want him competitive enough to make the high school team so he continues to occupy a nice chunk of his free time with team sports.
So I guess you could say my ego's involved: I don't want to be one of those moms crying on TV when their kid gets busted for drugs or shoots somebody. And as a coach, Mr. Danehy, do you seriously think my kid is the same as the truants that hang out at the Tucson Mall?
Anyway, I figure the grand or so I spend on soccer every year is less money than drug rehab.
While a number of Libertarians who have been paying some attention to the issues at Pima College would agree with you that I have embarrassed them by advocating a tuition and tax increase (The Skinny, April 18), I wish to remind you and them that I did not campaign on a platform of dismantling the institution.
You should also note that, despite the diverse political makeup of the board, we are all in substantial agreement about the facts of the situation and what to do about them. I'm pleased to have my colleagues and their perspectives on the board. All of them.
As government institutions go, Pima College is pretty good. In fact, Pima's cost per full time student equivalent (FTSE, pronounced 'footsee') is significantly lower than any other community college in the state. And it is dramatically lower than its sister institution up North.
Over the last 12 years in Arizona, even in good economic times, the State Legislature has only once funded community colleges per the modest statutory funding formula they wrote for themselves to obey. And, despite the significant increases in enrollment, the state-funding portion of our budget will decrease in real terms no less than 7 percent. And that cut is not temporary; it will propagate into the future in our new base funding.
Facing increased demand and reduced resources, the college has to make some choices:
· We could tighten our belts some more (we're already the most tightly squeezed community college in Arizona, so I don't think we'll get enough here).
· We could cut some programs. (Note that the ones with true savings in them are the expensive ones like nursing, hard sciences and technology, which incidentally give taxpayers the best return on their money. Most of the others either break even or generate surpluses that help fund other programs).
· We could pretend the problem will go away and do nothing.
· We could ask for the resources that would keep the institution effective and improving.
Ultimately, our choice is either to dismantle programs (that turn students into tax-payers rather than tax-consumers) or ask students and local taxpayers for more resources in order to keep our programs effective. The message from the Arizona State Legislature is clear: "You're on your own."
Pima County taxpayers can chose this coming November whether or not to support the override request (I urge them to do so). Students can refuse the tuition increase by voting with their feet, or in education jargon, their 'footsee' (I urge them to say; we're still the best deal in town).
Member, Pima Community College Governing Board