How bad has the financial crunch gotten for schools?

Well, in districts around York County, it seems anything not considered basic education is fair game for budget cutters.

For some of those, the cuts extend beyond the frills to include teaching and support staff positions.

In recent years, several local school districts began charging students fees to participate in extracurricular activities, as well making them pay for their required sports physicals.

It's a way, proponents say, of continuing to offer extras in the face of steep state funding cuts and tax caps.

The alternative is to eliminate programs like athletics, clubs, band and chorus -- activities that are secondary to academics, but that also contribute to a well-rounded education.

In the York City School District a few years back, the school board eliminated all but four sports and cut a popular performing arts program and still had to lay off more than 100 teachers, aides and guidance counselors.

More recently, the West York Area District, facing a $1.5 million deficit for the upcoming school year, furloughed about 20 professional staff and 10 support positions.

This week, Superintendent Emilie Lonardi announced another cut: The district will not fund any field trips for the 2014-15 school year.

Citing the "austere" budget (although, interestingly, the district is planning $54.8 million in construction projects), Lonardi said trips to locations like the Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center and Junior Achievement's BizTown "are off the docket."


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While not essential, field trips -- which can cost between $400 and $1,000 -- traditionally have been a way to broaden students' learning experiences.

The Byrnes Center's programs, for instance, teach children how to make healthy choices, while BizTown is a hands-on program where students gain a greater understanding of economics, government and employment.

Extras, yes, but activities like these teach students life skills they'll use long after they graduate.

Now, sadly, for the first time students in West York will not be able to participate.

Unless, that is, outside organizations step up.

Lonardi said the Parent/Teacher/Student Organization already has launched a fundraiser to pay for an an eighth-grade trip to Gettysburg, and school board vice president Todd Gettys suggested the board consider a policy to allow private businesses or citizens to sponsor field trips.

That sounds like a wonderful idea to us.

Knowing our community, we believe enough members will come forward to help restore at least some of these valuable learning experiences.