Varsity lacrosse a good decision

The Milford School Board’s approval of funding for girls varsity and junior varsity lacrosse was the right decision, one that will allow 30 young women to compete against other schools as part of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association and, much more important, be able to seek college scholarships.

The board made its decision after a large group of parents put on some pressure over the last few weeks. In doing so, they showed two things:

First, that parents have some power.

Second, the board is willing to listen.

Now the latter should be assumed, of course, but given our political times, one never really knows for sure. Milford School Board members, and members of other Milford boards, have a history of being open to ideas from the public, and here, the School Board gave a great example of how that hasn’t changed.

The parents weren’t asking for the moon, though. In the end, the board agreed to fund the sport to the tune of $9,200 for a varsity and junior varsity coach. That’s not $9,200 each; that’s $9,200 total. Indeed, on the night the board agreed to this funding, it also approved $10,700 for the middle school’s “B” level basketball and volleyball program and $1,050 for the high school’s bass fishing program. Those funding decisions are fine, too, but they are further indications that the lacrosse parents weren’t asking for all that much.

There were two comments made by officials that we think need some discussion.

Board member Bob Willette said Milford’s tax rate is the third-highest in Hillsborough County and added the obvious: that the funds approved “will add to your taxes.”

He’s spot on: Every piece of spending adds to taxes. But some spending is more valuable than others, and adding a sport that brings more young women onto the playing field is one of the valuable pieces of spending. Milford’s really good about providing sports opportunities for young women, and proved it again here. Willette’s right: It adds to the tax burden, but so does nearly every other monetary decision a board makes.

In the end, by the way, Willette voted to fund the sport. He knew it was the right thing to do, but he was also right to make his points. It never hurts to remind people that these things aren’t free.

The other interesting comment came from School Superintendent Robert Marquis, who warned of possible reductions in revenue in the years ahead because the new administration in Washington does not seem to support public education.

Unfortunately, he’s right. Charter schools are the educational interest of the Trump administration, and if one can go by the appointment of Betsy de Vos as Secretary of Education, federal money for public schools seems to be in jeopardy.

A parent, too, made an interesting point. Keith Waters noted that the School District had a surplus of more than $300,000 and saved more than $100,000 on its building renovation projects, “yet we are scrambling over” $20,000.

Well, there’s a certain logic to what he said, but it needs to be seen in the context of Willette’s tax reminder, because now the board has that much less that it could, if it chose, use to reduce the district’s tax impact. It’s a trade-off, and in this case, we think, a good one.

But not every trade-off is, and while we support this decision, we want to remind voters and officials that we have a tendency to support sports because, of course, we like sports, but also because they are highly visible. Things like the school library are less so, and the library might be able to put $20,000 to good use.

We are not suggesting that requests from the library, or any other part of the School District, would be summarily dismissed. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and sports are the loudest wheel, not just in Milford, but across the nation. There is no library talk radio station of which we know, but there are far more than enough sports talk stations; more’s the pity.

Still: Good decision. Now, let’s check the library budget.

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