Proposed bills would create funding for school athletic trainers and allow students to participate in extracurriculars even with lunch debt. (Photo courtesy of Nick Halliday)

Law would create funding for every school to have athletic trainer

Jarek RutzGovernment, Headlines

Proposed bills would create funding for school athletic trainers and allow students to participate in extracurriculars even with lunch debt. (Photo courtesy of Nick Halliday)

Proposed bills would create funding for school athletic trainers and allow students to participate in extracurriculars even with lunch debt. (Photo courtesy of Nick Halliday)

Extracurriculars ruled the day in Wednesday’s House Education Committee meeting. 

House Bill 244, sponsored by Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, would provide funding for every public high school in the state to have a full-time athletic trainer.

The funding would be phased over the next three fiscal years.

Both the state and local districts would allocate money for the athletic trainer.

Here’s the cost split:

“They promote student safety and wellness, they enhance the entire school community, Smith said. “They bring health equity and cost reduction, they increase improvement and retention, with this bill, to keep folks in our state who are trained in our state. 

Smith also pointed out athletic trainers can save families money from trips to the hospital. They also promote and can walk students through ways to be mentally healthy, he said. 

“One shared with me that he has not only treated athletes’ physical ailments, but has also been there for their mental health needs as well as guidance in preventing substance abuse issues,” Smith said. “That’s why you also see a lot of colleges going to sports psychologists and hiring them to help.”

Several legislators gave personal anecdotes of either themselves, or their children participating in athletic events and needing the expertise and availability of an athletic trainer.

Smith also pointed to two recent incidents in sports, in which Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed last year due to cardiac arrest in the middle of a nationally-televised Monday Night Football game. Smith also cited Bronny James, the son of basketball legend LeBron James, who also suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of a practice late last year.

Both Hamlin and James have credited the athletic trainers several times for caring for them and bringing them back to health during an emergency that could have ended their lives. 

There were some questions around what schools would get the first round of funding, since the bill says nine schools will get funds in year one of the rollout.

Smith said that the schools with the highest participation in sports would get preference. 

This means the actual number of students participating in a sport, not just the number of sports programs a school has. 

Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, suggested the bill clarifies that all students can take advantage of the athletic trainer’s services, not just athletes.

For example, if a student in marching band tears a ligament, that individual would be able to consult with the trainer. 

The bill was voted for unanimously and was released by committee. It now heads to the full House floor for consideration.

Sticking to the theme of extracurriculars, House Bill 263, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, would ban schools from suspending students from school-sponsored extracurricular activities on the basis of an outstanding debt for unpaid school meals. 

The bill lists extracurriculars as: band, clubs, homecoming, interscholastic sports, prom and student government. 

Several legislators and public commenters brought up the fact that children shouldn’t be punished if their family cannot afford a meal, and that restricting a child from participating in school activities actually harms their mental health and future success.

Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, supported the bill, but first brought up some of his own experiences in high school, decades ago. 

“I had a library book I had not returned and you know what? I knew I had not returned it and I was told I wasn’t going to graduate unless I brought it in,” he said. “That’s a life lesson.”

He said probably the primary duty of schools is to teach kids some responsibility, which is needed if they’re going to have a decent life.

“They’re not going to have it without some personal responsibility,” he said, “And so I know there are circumstances where that may be impossible when we’re talking about a lot of money, but I’m just saying I’m a little concerned about the trend where [responsibility] just seems to be the last thing that anybody considers, and I don’t see how it’s good for kids.”

The bill was released by committee and will be discussed by the entire House. 

Also Wednesday, the House Education Committee released House Bill 252.

Sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton and chair of the committee, the legislation would require that a Delaware licensed and certified teacher who has completed a year-long teacher residency program will be paid at salary step 2 for the year following completion of the program.

Currently, even if teachers go through the residency program, they are paid at the lowest step of the salary scale. 

The teachers who go through the residency program must commit to teaching in a qualifying Delaware school in order to jump the proverbial ladder of pay. 

That bill was also released and will make its way to the House floor.

Share this Post