Co-curricular programs include athletics, arts, and activities (clubs). Appropriately valuing these programs takes on particular importance during tight financial times.

It's a fair question to ask what percentage of our programmatic budget (excluding fixed costs such as custodial services, maintenance, transportation, and utilities) should be allocated to curricular (academic) versus co-curricular programs. 75%? 80%? 90%?

If we look at the FY09 school budget, we see that we spend 88% of our funds on program. Those program costs are then broken down as follows.
  • Academics: 91.1%
  • Art: 1.8%
  • Music: 2.7%
  • Theater arts: 0.7%
  • Athletics: 3.0%
  • Activities: 0.7%

In my opinion, these percentages reflect a reasonable prioritization.

Some sports (golf, skiing) and activities (ultimate frisbee) seem to be particular targets for charges of "over-spending." We should be careful not to imagine these endeavors as "resort activities," but legitimate competition that bring all of the benefits of the more "traditional" sports: fitness, teamwork, character, and so on. Moreover, they provide (as does crew, for instance) a markedly different type of competition for athletes who might not have the "tools" for the traditional sports.

In a comparison of 25 FY07 teams, cost per student ranged from a high of ~$1,050 (swimming) to a low of ~$250 (track). Golf ranks 4th at ~$800 (behind boys and girls volleyball) and skiing ranks 8th at ~$625 (behind boys and girls basketball, and comparable to baseball). Note that skiing's rank will drop considerably now that lift passes will be paid for by a separate fee to match the practice of peer districts. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with lift passes being part of the athletic budget--they are a necessary part of the sport, one that has athletes paying for their own equipment unlike most other sports.

I value co-curricular programs for the breadth that they add to a public education, and see devoting roughly a tenth of the budget to their pursuit as being appropriate.