By Kayla Lupoli-Nolan and Nick Zararis
The clattering of spikes on the track rings out to Brian Schanel as if it were the melody to an old familiar song. To a sprinter like him, this was just another day at the office. Schanel wore a red t-shirt with a faded “Connetquot” in white cracked from too many times through the dryer, and white Nike spikes. Now a soccer player at Westbury University in Nassau County, Schanel still remembers what he wore to practice everyday for four years of high school in Bohemia.
“My parents pushed me to participate in sports because my school had so many opportunities,” Schanel said.
However, not every district has the level of funding that Connetquot has and are often forced to turn to alternative means to pay for athletics.
Some districts such as Connetquot spend upwards of $550 per athlete, while Brentwood spends $386 and Central Islip spends $364 respectively.
A grant for $5,000 from the Greater Long Island Running Club of Plainview was opened for bidding on April third. In addition, the state of New York announced an additional $2 million in funding funding for two Long Island school districts, Brentwood and Central Islip, for after school sports to help anti-gang efforts.
“When the budget cut funding for athletics back in 2010, we had to stop offering several programs including cross country,” Kevin O’Reilly, the athletic director for Brentwood high school said. “It’s a matter of saving the entire athletics department, you’ve gotta pick and choose what stays.”
One fifth of all high school students in the United States participate in interscholastic athletics, according to the United States department of Education. However, the funding of high school sports represents a problem, especially in struggling socioeconomic communities.
Funding for high school sports typically comes from the yearly district budget, which is comprised of property taxes and state funding. However, outside sources can often provide additional financial support.
In 2016, the Running Club gave the grant to the Brentwood district to help reinstitute the cross country program after a six year hiatus, Mike Polansky, the President of the club said. Last year, the club gave the grant to Central Islip to buy the cross country team running shoes.
“It wasn’t originally planned that way, but we seem to be focusing on economically deprived districts, where the need is greatest,” Polansky said. “We very much want to continue and money permitting, expand the program.”
There are 3,381 athletes in the Brentwood School district competing at the cost of roughly $386 per student, according to the district’s budget. This is less than half of the national average for the cost per student athlete.
“If we get extra money from outside the budget, we can have greater levels of involvement,” O’Reilly said. “It also has the added benefit of making sure the kids are busy after school and not going to an unsupervised home.”
The GLIRC approached schools in both Nassau and Suffolk county about applying for this year’s grant. The applications are due on May 1st, and the club will announce who will receive them soon after. The funding from the state for anti-gang efforts will be available for the 2018-2019 academic year.