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State Funds for Extracurricular Activities Could Be in Jeopardy in Kansas

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A proposed bill in Kansas would eliminate state funding for schools' extracurricular activities.

"We're talking about football and those activities outside the school grounds," said Rep. Ron Highland, a Republican who chairs the state house of representatives' education committee.  "If the school districts want a big stadium for whatever reason, then that can be done with local funds instead of taxpayer funds from all across the state."

The plan has been criticized by those who say it would cut state aid for things like marching band.

But Highland says activities such as being a member of the school band and participating on a debate team are considered to be "co-curricular" and "part of the educational process," so they wouldn't be affected.

The bill defines extracurricular as, "those activities provided or supported by a school district, but which are not required by or a substantial part of any curriculum of such school district," while co-curricular is defined as, "those activities provided or supported by a school district that are not extracurricular activities."

Under these definitions, some might argue sports could qualify as co-curricular if a program were somehow related to a school's physical education classes.

Is Playing Football Educational?

Highland says he's not convinced playing football contributes to a student's education.

"They tell me some students won't stay in school unless there is football," said Highland. "We're not telling them they can't have it. If they want it, that'll be [funded] locally."

He said the decision to propose cutting state funds for football and other sports came after a legislative committee surveyed schools and found many of them were spending lots of money on athletic facilities and coaches.

"In some of these places, they had as many as eight or 10 coaches just for football alone, and when you added all that up, it was a great deal of money," Highland said.

This bill also includes other controversial measures such as allowing parents to use tax funds to pay for private schools.

Kansas legislators are in recess until April 27.  When the legislature reconvenes, lawmakers are expected to debate this measure.

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