JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Education budget cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Scott will likely mean the end of sports of any kind in Duval County Schools, according to the chairman of the Duval County School Board.
First Coast News reported two weeks ago that athletic programs were on the table for possible budget cuts as a result of pending legislation.
W.C. Gentry told First Coast News if all the state budget cuts being proposed are made, it is a virtual certainty the upcoming school year will be without sports.
"We cannot right now, looking at the budget, we cannot get there and keep our education system intact without virtually eliminating all extracurricular activities" said Gentry. "There is no money to do anything other than what the state mandates and what we have to do to maintain accreditation, so that is where we stand."
"It will not be an education system as we know it and it will not be a quality education system because we know that sports keep a lot of people in school, and they are vital to the life of a school. And having a full education like arts and music and physical education, all these things are critical to a child's education.
"Do you cut arts and music? Right now we have to. Do you cut some transportation? Right now we have to. Do you go to four days a week? That saves 7 million dollars, we may have to. Do we cut all extracurricular activities? Right now, given the budget, we have to."
Gentry said reports that Duval County could be the only school system in Florida without athletics is not true. He has talked with other systems who are also considering the same cuts.
Gentry said Duval County is one of the first to look closely at cuts they would have to make. He says the Board wants to go to the community in April and hold public meetings and outline cuts that will have to be made, and get input from the public as to priorities they would like to see
"Right now the Legislature is basically saying we are going to give you enough money to do core courses, Math, Science, English and those sort of things, and after that there is no more money," said Gentry.
The Duval County School system faces a $97 million dollar shortfall if all of Scott's cuts are approved by the Legislature this session.
"The priorities are being set by Tallahassee, and not being set by us," said Gentry.
Cutting sports and transportation for after school events would save the school board more than six million dollars.
Gentry says the cuts are necessary to protect the core curriculum and preserve the accreditation of our schools.
News of the possible cuts did not earn points with Duval Schools alumni shooting hoops at Burnett Park in Mandarin on Sunday.
"It gave me a motivation to keep my grades up. If you can't keep grades up, you cannot play on a team," said Wayne Parks, Mandarin High School class of 1999 and former athlete. "Don't consider that. I don't think that's the right way to go. I don't know else you can cut, but that is the wrong thing cut."
Former Duval Schools football coach and former school board member Jimmie Johnson said the possible cuts are a "bad idea."
Johnson is concerned that cutting sports would mean altering the lives of countless young adults, and leave many unprepared for responsibilities of the "real world."
"I was the one preaching for a few weeks that we had to be bold, but that is a big, that is a big one they are talking about here," said Johnson.
First Coast News