August 15, 2003 - Posted at 7:31 a.m. CDT
Little Rock, Ark. -- The costs of the helmets and shoulder pads thousands of Arkansas teenagers wear each fall is part of the debate on education reform.
Some question whether smaller schools should fund football while the state struggles to find money for education improvements.
Other say taking away sports programs would harm communities and deprive students of opportunities.
Governor Huckabee has proposed cutting costs and increasing high school course offerings by consolidating some small schools. He has accused communities that object to the plan of caring more about sports than education.
And others complain that it is difficult to find out how much schools spend on sports.
Jimmy Coats, director of the Arkansas Activities Association, says many of the 200 high schools that offer football in Arkansas are small. He says some students might miss their chance to excel if their small schools did not offer programs like football.
Coats says he does not support putting athletics above academics, but believes the two aren't mutually exclusive.