Coaches Decry Cutting Budgets to Fund Teachers' Raise

Paul Steinbach Headshot

Dozens of coaches at South Summit High School in Kamas, Utah, and their supporters attended last week's South Summit Board of Education meeting to protest a reduction in athletic funding, as well as a requirement that they fill out detailed budgets that account for every expected cost — including team dinners — and to build those costs into student fees.

As reported by the The Park News in Park City, in an effort to reduce hidden fees for students to participate in team sports, such as unexpected dinners out or the cost of a team sweatshirt, the Utah Legislature has mandated coaches detail exactly how much they’ll charge in student fees and what that money will be spent on, according to school superintendent Shad Sorenson. The idea is to make it less likely kids will be priced out of playing sports, but it has resulted in a major uptick in administration time and a restructuring of the way things are done. In addition, the district has added costs like upgrading shoulder pads to the burden of student fees, rather than paying for them itself.

Coaches said they were told in a July 10 email from the high school’s athletic director, Shad Stevens, that the district’s funding of their programs was being zeroed out. The coaches further stated that it would now fall to them to fundraise to make up the difference between student fees and the total budget, yet another responsibility in a job that pays poorly. It will also take more administrative time to craft detailed budgets, they said — time they could instead use with the kids they coach.

Sorenson said he understood the coaches’ perspectives and suggested a possible solution, but made clear there was no guarantee he’d be able to find the money. As part of the coaches’ budgeting process, he asked coaches to look at what expenses could be reduced and what they couldn’t live without. He’d use those numbers to put together a proposal to ask the board for more funds.

School board president Suni Woolstenhulme said the changes free up $143,000, which was allocated to pay for teacher salaries as part of a 4 percent raise and classroom supplies. Sorenson said the wage increase may not seem like a lot to those receiving it, but it cost the cash-strapped district $600,000, including the funds redirected from the athletics program.

One coach at the board meeting estimated he’d spent $45,000 of his own money to coach. He said the only answer is to raise taxes, though he acknowledged it would put board members in a tough spot. â€śDo truth in taxation, raise taxes,” he told the officials. “Put it on the people. You’re putting it on the parents — put it on the people.”

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