The PickrenZONE No. 15

If you don't play my way then I am going to take my marbles and go home
(The Elimination of Athletics in Greenville County)
By Dave Pickren
The PickenZONE.Com ©

Whaaaaa, Whaaaaa, Whaaaaaaa.

I heard a great giant cry last week and immediately ran up the stairs to my 2 year old son's nursery to see what was wrong. My son was sitting on the floor laughing and playing with the Hot Wheels Cars and enjoying the day. Then I heard the crying and whining again and realized the sound was coming from down Interstate 85 and was emanating from the Greenville County School District Office of Superintendent Bill Harner.

Imagine, another politician not getting his way and then crying to the press and everyone else that will listen. "It's not just a scare tactic, but a real possibility", Harner said in reference to his threat to end athletics in Greenville County.


It is nothing more than a man who asked for an increase in his "allowance" and his parents "the taxpayers" said no. So now Mr. Harner has decided to take his marbles and go home since the other children will not play the way he wants to play.

To start with we have to go back and look at what is causing the current mess in Greenville County. Harner will blame the failure to pass the bond and state mandates, which are sent to the districts and are not funded. I think the problems are much deeper than that and have been longer in the making. The district is huge, too big to operate efficiently. It has 58,000 students, a 400 million dollar budget and a clogging bureaucracy. Teachers each year leave the district and drive to Spartanburg or Anderson because they are tired of the mess in Greenville County.

Despite being in one of the most prosperous areas in the state where unemployment is under 2% and growth is very strong, the schools continue to suffer. GCSD ranks 36th in the state for teacher pay and an abysmal 75th out of 86 in per pupil expenditures. Very few people have anything good to say about the District as a whole. If the district were a company, you would be unloading this dog stock purchase in a hurry.

On May 19, a referendum for new additional financing paid for by the property holders in Greenville County failed at the ballot box by a wide margin and as a result funding became an issue once again for the school board. Immediately Harner proposed and passed the elimination of Middle School Athletic Programs. A fine arts center and 2 magnet schools were also on the chopping block but after passionate pleas from parents, these programs were saved.

So last week the GCSD passed its budget of 400 million dollars and Harner immediately stated that 2002 – 2003 budget process would be a more difficult process and the elimination of all interscholastic sports at the 15 county high schools would be a real possibility. Most thought Harner was only huffing and puffing since the taxpayers had refused to give him a war chest to play with. But Harner insists the cut is possible and not posture and could happen as early as next year.

According to the Greenville News, the GCSD spent 1.2 million on athletics salaries as a budgetary item last year. That represents less than 0.22 % of the entire budget or just a quarter of a point. The 15 schools along with their booster clubs collectively rose in excess of 3 million dollars for the athletic departments to cover the cost of transportation, uniforms, equipment, meals, training, medical needs and referee fees. Greenville County has one of the lowest per pupil expenditures for athletics in the entire southeast.  The 0.22% spent on athletic salaries is insignificant in the overall schemes of the budgetary process. Harner states that they are going to be over 9 million in the red next year but only mentions the athletics as a possible cut. Even cutting athletics only covers 11% of the overall money he needs to cut. Where is the other 7.8 million going to come from if we do cut athletics? I see no mention of that anywhere.

So why is he even mentioning athletics as a possible cut?

Because the media and their lap dog accomplices will run the story in a typical Chicken Little the Sky is falling context.

Oh My Gosh, the situation is so bad we won't have a football team next year. It's horrible. We must do something. Please give us a second chance to pass your bond referendum. AHHHHH. It is amazing how clear things are when you peel away all the ………….

GCSD could cut a teacher's aid salary in a school and save millions of dollars and the News would not run the story on Page C7. But take away the soccer team and it runs on Page A1. The whole thing is a farce and they know it. What can we do to scare the people and make them notice and at the same time rub a little salt in the wound since they did not give me my referendum?  Harner now can do just about anything he wants and as long as he leaves athletics alone he is viewed as a victor. He has set the expectation so low than anything he delivers is great and wonderful and he is viewed as a hero. He is great because he saved our teams. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them bull.

Harner and each of the 12 members of the board know that ending athletics in the district is paramount to ending their own career. If athletics are cut in the 2002 budget then each board member that voted for the cut can go ahead and make plans not to be on the board come election time November 2002.  Harner's days will also be numbered as a new board will send him back to retirement at Fort "What the heck was I thinking" One thing politicians are good at (and all board members and superintendents are politicians) is survival. The board will pass next years budget "with a heavy heart" and will miraculously save athletics.

So many naysayers will s

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