Students protest CPS sports cuts

Photo by ABC7's Ben Bradley

March 10, 2010 3:03:43 PM PST
Hundreds of Chicago high school athletes are being affected by budget problems. Sophomores who play sports have been sidelined this spring and Wednesday some of them staged a protest.

A letter from the CPS athletic director finally confirmed what had been rumored to be happening -- the end of sports for those caught between the freshmen and upper classmen. So, unlike the stereotype of quiet middle children, sophomores Wednesday vented their frustration at a situation they say is short-sighted and unfair.

Lane Tech's sophomores are rallying for a cause -- sophomore sports.

"I am a football player too and like, track help me to become a better football player so it is going to mess me up," said Jaquan Scott, track.

Those plans are dashed as the result of a letter from CPS athletics to schools -- direction that makes long-term athletic achievement appear as gloomy as the skies.

"I love sports, I know a lot of people who love sports, a lot of the people are inspired to keep their grades up to play sports, that's the only reason they keep their grades up and work hard so they can stay on the sports teams," said Sean Pfeiffer, baseball.

For a century-old school known for its championships, shuttering spring sophomore sports irks long-time supporters -- especially when it appears students pay for the mismanagement of adults.

"Every year we are hearing from officials there is no money and they get millions of dollars dumped into the system that can carry them for the year but we are 2-3 months down the road and there is no money again," said Theresa Rowe, parent of sophomore.

The lost opportunity strikes a chord with the man who's making the budget call. He too blames others.

"It is a sad day today, because the Chicago Public School system does not have the dollars to keep those programs open. It is dollars that were appropriated, dollars that were legislated, for the school system as simply not being paid," said Ron Huberman, CPS CEO.

And beyond athletics, there are the unintended consequences of cutting off sports.

"Sports is the only thing that keeps us straight and also sports helps us out at school, concentrated, active, so there is a lot of things that without sports that kids are more influenced to do," said Aidan Ramirez, track.

CPS was already facing a half-billion dollar deficit going into this academic year and schools chief Huberman says everyone is going to have to work to bridge that gap. Now it's sophomore athletes. The next step likely is to get teachers to come to the table to negotiate their annual raises.