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The high cost of building temples at Texas schools

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POSTED September 1, 2012 1:20 a.m.

There’s high school football and then there is Texas high school football.

Compared to Texas, California high school football is laid back - way laid back.

If a school in the Golden State even suggested putting in a 1,200-square-foot high resolution video screen to carry live coverage of the game in the stadium below interposed with player mugs and statistics, taxpayers would be storming the administrative offices and teachers would be using school board members as tackling dummies.

But not in Texas.

Shannon Baldree - a 35-year-old teacher at Carthage High near the Louisiana border - is enthralled that her district spent $750,000 on the video screen that is proclaimed as the largest of any high school in Texas. The Wall Street Journal quotes Baldree as saying, “it’s something we can say we have that nobody else has.”

Badree, by the way, wears football-shaped earrings.

“We earned it,” Carthage quarterback Jarod Blissett said in reference to state championships in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Actually, they didn’t earn it. Taxpayers picked up the tab. Not that they are complaining. The special bond issue to pay for the video screen passed in May with 70 percent of the voters in favor.

Carthage High is not the exception. In Texas the Home of the Bulldogs is the rule.

Last night Allen High in the Dallas suburb of the same name christened its new $60 million stadium.

They built a stadium for what you could build a high school to accommodate 1,800 students in California.

It seats 18,000 fans, has a 38-foot-wide high-definition video screen, a towering upper deck and a three-story press box. And they also have sponsors.

They don’t look for program advertising at $50 a pop in Texas. No siree Bob. The stadium has seven sponsors who pay $35,000 a year for the privilege.That’s more than enough to run an entire athletic program at a typical California high school.

In all fairness, they do sell out more often than the Oakland Raiders.

Some 63 percent of the district’s voters backed a $119 million bond issue in 2009 specifically to replace their old stadium that had 7,000 permanent seats. The school, though, was renting 7,000 temporary seats each year plus portable toilets to the tune of $250,000 annually.

They must be mad about their schools in Texas.

Try crazy. At the end of the last school year, the Allen school system had to lay off 84 teachers as they lacked funding.

The next big thing in Texas is likely to be domed high school football stadiums complete with retractable roofs.

I have nothing against high school football. With the right coaches, teens learn much more than blocking schemes and passing patterns. Among the life lessons are teamwork, delayed gratification, the need to meet standards such as in academics, and losing with grace. Football also serves as a rallying point for the student body and the community.

Even so, I always thought it wasn’t justified on a number of levels for each high school in Manteca Unified to have their own lighted football stadium. Instead of five replicate fields they could have shared two and then built an aquatics center that all schools could use or - heaven forbid - a state-of-the-art science hub or even a fine arts center.

Ripon offers a prime example of the power of sharing and its between a Christian high school and a public high school.

But given the Texas football frenzy, Manteca Unified’s lighted football stadium on every campus philosophy looks downright thrifty and even keeled.

Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot has said a lot of things over the years that were on target as well as a tad wacky.

But his consistent criticism of his home state’s over-the-top high school football culture couldn’t be more on target.

“Do we want our kids to win on Friday night on the football field or do we want them to win all through their lives?” Perot wrote in 1988.

For the folks of Allen in Texas, they answered the questioned by the great American tradition of voting with their pocketbook.

When push comes to shove, push football and shove teachers out the door.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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