(Below is a February 11, 2013 Email to Montgomery County Public Schools [Maryland] Supt. Joshua Starr and the Board of Education)
On January 17, 2013, I recommended that Supt. Starr and the Board of Education include in the MCPS FY 2014 Operating Budget they recommend to the County Council $500,000 for funding an athletic trainer at each of MCPS's 25 high schools.
At that time, I shared with Supt. Starr and the School Board the Maryland Map at this link, which shows which school systems in the State already staff their high schools with athletic trainers.
In their response to Budget Question 53, MCPS staff report that part-time athletic trainers could be staffed at MCPS's 25 high schools, modeled on such staffing in Howard and other Maryland school systems, by increasing the activity fee charged to students by only $22.
While it is appreciated that the MCPS is exploring alternative ways to fund trainers, this approach raises several problems. An increase in the activity fee would likely increase the number of students who will not be able to pay the fee and will therefore seek waivers. So the increased amount that families who don't seek waivers pay will likely be more than $22.
A more basic concern is that funding trainers through the activity fee would impose the cost on students who participate in non-athletic after-school activities such as the chess club.
I surveyed several Athletic Directors at Maryland School Systems that have trainers. None of them fund their trainers through an activity fee assessed to students in athletic and non-athletic after school activities. One system, Frederick County Public Schools, funds its athletic trainers through a $90 fee assessed to students who participate in athletics, with waivers granted based on need.
(The Frederick County $90 fee is also used to fund bus transportation, official fees, and coaches stipends. Are these expenses currently in Supt. Starr's FY 2014 MCPS Operating Budget proposal as coming from general funds or will they be paid for from activity fee funds?)
The best solution would be for the cost of athletic trainers to be funded through general appropriations in the FY 2014 budget, as is done in Howard, Carroll, Harford, and Anne Arundel Counties, as well as in Fairfax County, Virginia. (Howard, Harford, and Fairfax Counties do not change any activity fees to students.)
I urge Supt. Starr and the School Board to reexamine the Supt. FY 2014 operating budget proposal for savings that could be used to fund trainers. For example, a commenter to a Potomac Patch piece, Speak Out: Should Montgomery County Spend $500,000 On Athletic Trainers in Schools? indicated that Supt. Starr's budget includes $300,000 for travel by MCPS administrators and staff.
If this is true, then Supt. Starr and the School Board should consider shifting the $300,000 non-essential travel expense to pay for athletic trainers and look for other similar savings to fund the other $200,000. As many sports safety professionals say, if you can't afford athletic trainers, you cannot afford a sports program.
No one would suggest that MCPS fund non-essential travel by not paying to maintain the brakes on its fleet of buses. It really isn't any different if you fund such travel while the athletics program is run without staff essential for student safety.
Alternatively, athletic trainers could be funded through an athletics fee collected from students who participate in athletics, as is done in Frederick County. MCPS reports in its Athletics Handbook that 21,500 high school students participate in interscholastic sports. Could these students pay an athletics fee in lieu of the current activity fee?
How many of these students currently obtain a waiver from MCPS's $30 activity fee and would likely need a waiver from an athletics fee? How much families who can currently pay $30 would need a waiver if they were assessed an athletics fee set at a level to fund the athletic trainers? How much would the remaining paying families have to pay?
I appreciate Supt. Starr’s and the Board of Education’s interest in exploring ways to join the many surrounding school systems that provide athletic trainers at their high schools.
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