Change could hurt activities

Earlier this year as Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking its color barrier, many black athletes spoke up about the dramatic decline of participation in America's pastime by black youths.

Hall of famer Dave Winfield articulated the loss of free sport opportunities in America's inner cities. Truth be told, this change has taken place everywhere. When we were kids, sports were encouraged and mostly free. Certainly, athletes didn't have to pay to play in school sports. Middle schools still had competitive leagues. Music, drama and other extracurricular activities were a staple of American education.

But in an era when we are expected to collect Campbell's soup labels to help fund public education, it is no wonder that these activities are under constant threat of elimination. Threats of elimination cost teachers and coaches jobs, lead to participation fees and create the need and burden of fundraising.

Recall the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" and its telling of the dramatic changes in American public education system and the priority placed on providing access and opportunity to extracurricular involvement.

Yes Mr. Dylan, the times they are a changin'.

So consider the coming vote on our education funding levy, formerly called the Youth Activities Levy. Because of court challenges to the designating of funds, the Ashland School Board will present a levy that, unlike its predecessors, will not be solely designated funding for youth activities. The money will be funneled into the general fund to be dispersed at the discretion of the school superintendent and board.

So just how long after the levy is successfully passed by Ashland's loyal supporters of education, will the levy funds be diverted away from this essential mission? Without at least providing a specific budget of how they will be used, the levy becomes just another tax for education, something a large portion of our taxes already go to. This levy could lead to youth activities reducing rather than enhancing.

A subtle but serious shift is taking place with this levy. Rubber-stamped approval could be a mistake our kids live with for years to come.

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