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Philadelphia Principals Vote To Kill Extracurricular Programs

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High school principals in Philadelphia voted last week to eliminate interscholastic sports and other extracurricular activities for next school year to meet budget cuts imposed on them.

The vote marks the second time this school year that principals in one of the nation's largest school districts have tried to balance their budgets by cutting extracurricular programs.

Last fall, Chicago principals voted to drop winter sports and activities. But local media and businesses, as well as the basketball superstar Michael Jordan and national athletic-wear manufacturers and retailers, came to the schools' rescue. (See Education Week, Nov. 4, 1992.)

Philadelphia school officials said they hoped that private benefactors would favor them as well.

"It has been used as a ploy ... in the past to raise the attention of legislators and the administration as to the gravity of the budget problem,'' said Rotan E. Lee, the president of the Philadelphia school board. "As a practical matter, it would be nice if we could find a benefactor through the private sector.''

The current school year is the first in which Philadelphia schools control their own budgets through school-governance councils.

Part of that new responsibility entails shouldering their share of a $60 million district budget shortfall.

For the high schools, that share comes to some $18.5 million.

Extracurricular Goes First

"We decided that if we're going to cut anything, it should not impact negatively on the instructional program,'' said Edward Magliocco, the principal of Murrell Dobbins Vo-Tech and the president of the high school principals' council. "Anything that was extracurricular would have to go first.''

But the principals acknowledge they will have to go beyond cutting athletics and other extracurriculars. The total athletic budget for the 35 to 40 schools affected by the vote is only about $4 million.

To meet its goal, Murrell Dobbins will lose four of its 12 department heads, a counselor, a secretary, and a nonteaching assistant, Mr. Magliocco said.

Even after eliminating those positions, he said, he will still have to find $644,000 to cut. Hence, the vote to cut extracurricular programs.

The vote to scrap extracurricular activities still requires the approval of the local governance councils and the district board of education.

Mr. Lee said he is loathe to cut such programs because they are an essential part of a student's education. But he added that some undoubtedly will have to be eliminated because of the budget deficit, which stems largely from a freeze in state aid and an erosion in the local tax base.

"Do I think there is going to be some broad-brush evisceration of extracurricular [programs]?'' Mr. Lee asked. "No. Do I think that all sports programs are going to go by the board? The answer is no. Do I think that some of these programs may be cut? Perhaps.''

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