Saturday, June 25, 2011

Athletics in AAPS: Safety, Title IX, Process

I think this message from Liz Margolis and the Ann Arbor Public Schools is so important that I am sharing it in its entirety. I suggest that you read through to the end, at least in part because that's where I put my comments.

Dear AAPS Families, This message explains high school athletic changes for next year due to budget reductions.  
AAPS High School Athletics  2011/2012

            The Athletic Directors at all respective High Schools in Ann Arbor have been pondering budget reductions.  The economic reality facing the Ann Arbor Public Schools are a result of continued State Budget Reductions. AAPS is reducing the 2011/12 budget by $15 million. Last year the district reduced by $18 million and the previous years reductions of $35 million occurred. Funding from the state continues to impact all areas of public education, in the classroom and on the athletic fields.
            These cost cutting measures translates into fewer resources to effectively operate all of our athletic programs resulting in the elimination of teams/programs.  We can no longer provide adequate resources for all 35 programs and are forced to reduce the athletic budgets.  We will be sharing the following information with parents and students via an email in the next few days. Please review this information. It is very likely that you will get questions from parents. We all need to be consistent with our response. Always know that you can direct any questions to me.

Budget Reductions:
All three high schools will contract with an outside agency (Michigan Rehabilitation Services) for athletic trainer services.  Each school will receive two certified athletic trainers who will provide the services we currently have in place.
Reduction in half time secretary in the athletic office
Coaches who are not employed by the district in another capacity will be paid through a third party management service.  The coaches will remain the same but employed by the outside services.
Ice hockey teams at each school will be responsible for the first $12,000 for ice time rental.  Skyline will implement this system when hockey is started in 2011.

Since 1990, freshman teams as well as the following sports have been added to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Sports Menu.
Men’s and Women’s Bowling (all high schools)
Crew (all high schools)
Figure Skating (Huron and Pioneer)
Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse (all high schools)
Dance (Skyline)
Men’s and Women’s Track received a third assistant coach position
The following programs will no longer be funded by the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

All Freshmen Sports with the exception of Freshman Football.  Safety issues were a major concern with the freshman competing in football at the junior varsity or varsity level, thus we will continue to run a 9th grade football program.
Fall Crew is eliminated.  (All high schools).  (Crew was the only sport to have two seasons funded).
Dance (Skyline)
Cheer (Huron)
Figure Skating (Pioneer and Huron)
Field Hockey (Second J.V. team at Pioneer/Huron will no longer be funded).
Men’s and Women’s Bowling (All high schools).
Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse (All high schools).
One assistant track coach (Huron and Pioneer as Skyline was not yet fully staffed).
Transportation to schools in Washtenaw County with the exception of Football and Track.  (Equipment concerns).

Options for Club Sport Status
A club sport is defined as an athletic program participating in interscholastic competition operated directly under the supervision of the high school building principals and funded outside of the athletic department budget.  Club sports originate only with the approval of the building principal and athletic director.

Requirements to achieve and maintain club status shall include
1.Demonstrate adequate student interest, defined as double the minimum squad size.
2.If the faculty sponsor is not the coach, the building principal and/or athletic director will approve a qualified coach.
3.There will be no minimum number of opponents or contest required to achieve or  retain club status.
4.It is not necessary for all district high schools to offer a given club sport for that club sport to be offered at one of the high schools.
5.Club sports and coaches will comply with all Michigan High School Athletic Association and Ann Arbor Public Schools rules and regulations.
6.Other factors to consider are costs, safety/risk, and Title IX participation.
7. Varsity letters will be awarded by the school and paid for by the club

Athletic Club Team Sign - up
1.     Draft a charter and have it approved by the building principal
2.     Provide the building principal with a proposed budget, which must be approved by the principal – It is recommended that the club become a 501(c)3 organization
3.     Be sponsored by a faculty member
4.     Provide the building principal with an approved transportation plan and insurance plan
5.     Complete an annual program reports
6.     Adequate administrative resources and physical facilities be available
7.     Turn in (4) copies of eligibility list (divided by team)
8.     All club members must have current physicals
9.     All club members must meet the Districts eligibility requirements
10.  All club members must pay an insurance fee
11.  All expenses are to be paid for outside the Ann Arbor School System, for examples;
                        Coaches Salary                                    Rentals          
                        Transportation                                        Awards          
                        Supplies                                                Uniform
1. Were all the cuts consistent across all three high schools? Yes
2. Can a Varsity sport that's been cut move to club status? Yes –if funds are raised to support the fees and the requirements are followed. See above
3. How much of the overall school budget is athletics? 1%      
4. Once a team is a club can they go back to funded status? Yes
5. Since the JV coach quit can I fill that spot without having to interview? No, interviews must take place for any open coaching position including open club sport positions.
6. Whose decision was this?
The Athletic Directors were instructed that the school athletic budgets were to be reduced by $475,000. Athletic Directors were asked to assess the reductions and make recommendations to administration. These cuts are just part of the $15 million AAPS is making in response to the decrease in funding from the state.                                              8. If a team is a club do they have to pay the "pay-to-participate" fee? No, if the sport now has “club” designation participants do not have to pay the  “pay-to-participate” fee.

9. How much money has been cut from athletics over the last two years? $1.6 million has been reduced from athletics over the past two years, which  includes all three high schools.

I understand the need for most of the cuts, and some of them--such as cutting freshman sports, now that we have a third high school--make sense to me. But as is so often the case, I'd have to say that I don't agree with the process that was used. Where were parental and student input? I--even as a parent of a current athlete--didn't hear a word about this until today. I wonder if the parents of some of the teams that are being cut (e.g. lacrosse, bowling, figure skating) had been consulted? How convenient to share this after the schools have essentially closed for the summer. 

On the transportation issue, I foresee a lot of problems with cutting transportation to all school competitions in Washtenaw County. That includes schools that are nearly 20 miles away, and will require parents to take time off from work to transport their kids.  The alternative (for at least some kids) is to let them drive their friends.
In the past few years I've had two children get their drivers' licenses. However, between child #1 and child #2 the Michigan rules for younger drivers changed. The new regulations:
Prohibit a driver with a Level 2 graduated driver's license (GDL) from operating a motor vehicle carrying more than one passenger who is under 21 years of age, unless:
    a. passengers are members of the driver's immediate family, or
    b. travel is to or from school or a school-sanctioned event.

Now, admittedly, these student-athletes would be driving to and from school-sanctioned events, so they aren't asking students to break the law. But as a parent, I have to ask the question--would this law have been enacted if it was safe for teens to drive large groups of kids? [Don't be a smart aleck and answer, "Well, maybe, given our legislature!"] Statistically, it's not nearly as safe. Just ask the Centers for Disease Control. Their Teen Drivers fact sheet says:
The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.4
Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:

  • Males: In 2006, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 was  almost two times that of their female counterparts.1
  • Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.5
  • Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive.4
(My auto insurance company seems to know these facts, too--my insurance is a lot higher than it used to be.) I don't want to be overly melodramatic about this, but on the other hand, I'm not interested in risking kids' lives.

There are some significant Title IX concerns embedded in these decisions. First, I think it's more likely that the reason they are continuing transportation for track is that football is only a boys' sport, and if that was the only sport being privileged by transportation "safety concerns" they felt they needed to balance that with a sport that serves both girls and boys. The track teams are a natural choice because they are large teams, and they have both genders.  

Should basketball retain the freshman teams? They field the smallest teams and often "cut" the most kids at tryouts.
Second, I wonder if the cuts to all freshmen teams except football in any way violates Title IX?
Third, does the fact that they are cutting more women's sports than men's sports violate Title IX? They are cutting 4 women's and 3 men's sports at Pioneer; and 4 women's and 3 men's sports at Huron. (At Skyline, they are cutting 3 women's and 3 men's sports.) Both Pioneer and Huron have been the subject of Title IX complaints in the past--and the district spent lots of money on those litigations.

I also wonder why there were no cuts made to the middle school sports? What about cutting all sixth grade sports? Reducing the number of middle school seasons to three, from the current five?

But most importantly--it's about the process. Why weren't there public meetings, as there were with the rest of the budget, to discuss the proposed changes? I think feedback might have changed the look of this proposal. For all I know, it still could.


  1. No one has ever been able produce an athletic department budget for Huron High School, including the costs and number of student athletes per team. I assume the same is true at Pioneer and Skyline. To make budget decisions without transparency is WRONG!

  2. WHat I have a hard time with is the lack of outrage with the A2 news censoring anything they disagree with. It has become widely known that the term removed for being "off topic" was always code for we disagree with this comment, and now they just hold them for "review" and they never show up if it makes a valid point. without cuss words, without racism, and without anything remotely considered mean. I have had people watching for my comments after we have discussed them and how they should be written. no luck. and you people wonder why our government has run amuck.....? and now that they are taking from our children you finally are outraged?

  3. It makes me sad to see the freshman sports cut. I hope they come back in some form such as a club. It is not a problem for the highly trained students who have participated in travel/private club sports. But for a lot of ordinary kids, they are able to at least make the freshman team and have a chance to play some sports at school. Pioneer sports are very competitive and lots of kids don't make the teams after their freshman or sophomore years. Cancelling freshman sports eliminates the opportunity for a lot of kids to get the coaching needed to get the skills to have a shot at JV and Varsity.

  4. Hopefully the Ann Arbor Rec Department can pick up the slack and have teams for these freshman athletes.

  5. Just to clarify two points:

    Freshmen will still be able to try out for teams--in fact some sports have only ever had JV and Varsity teams--but the freshmen will be competing against the 10th (and 11th) graders who typically play JV. With the advent of Skyline, the pool of student-athletes at Pioneer and Huron has shrunk, so there may be some right-sizing here; but it will also increase the level of competition and the number of "cuts" during certain sports tryouts. Basketball, which fields relatively small teams, comes to mind as a sport that will see more cuts.

    Also--I was privately sent a couple of comments that suggest that I can't expect the district to engage in "public decision-making." So just to be clear, I am not advocating "public decision-making," but rather a "public process." Since the district was working on the budget months ago, there was plenty of time for the Athletic Directors to pull together some meetings at every school to discuss cost-cutting scenarios and get feedback before making any decisions.

  6. I can't believe these decisions were made without and parental input. Participating in sports is extremely important for incoming Freshmen. It helps them in all aspects of their pschool career. I believe also that this is discrimination to those students who are not physically suited to be "Football Players", "Baseball players", etc. Just because Bowling, Lacrosse, etc. are not big money makers do not mean they are not just as important to those kids who want to participate in a team sport. It is damaging to their self esteem and possibly to how their high school career progresses. I am sure there are many other areas where money is spent needlessly and cuts could be made. Even if partial funding were cut, parents should be given the option of perhaps contributing a little more money and/or fundraising more. I would hope there are enough parents who feel as strongly as I do about this and that are willing to take a stand and try to work on a solution to this for their children.