Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tax Breaks?? Come On

We don't have to spend much time with the media to hear THE FACTS:Nineteen percent of kids between the ages of 9-11 are overweight. Well, that's great news. The media blames parents, video games, television, and school. I agree. I am comfortable with our parenting skills (sometimes), we love video games (and have four gaming systems living with us), we have a warm relationship with television (just so there's no reason to have to read), and my kids have a nice educational system.But still, THE FACTS exist:Four out of 10 students received no physical education last year. It's common knowledge that as testing requirements have increased in language arts and math, time has been taken away from other areas like physical education, art, music, and science. And that is in spite of the fact that art classes teach skills such as higher level thinking.So at the Flag home, although we have our vices of gaming and t.v., we also have:3 kids in piano lessons3 (sometimes 4) in formal, organized sports (1 sport per season)2 in chess club2 (soon to be 3) in scoutset ceteraThese things are all valuable. Each commitment teaches my kids so much more than the skills taught. For example, music enhances reading skills and IQ. But each of these extracurricular activities comes with a price tag. This month's piano bill alone took 35% of my monthly income. We are fortunate because my younger kids do get physical education and music classes at school. That translates to 1 class per week. But not all of my kids get these classes. Outdoor recess would help, but we live in a snowy region so it doesn't exist from the first snow onward, and when it does happen it is typically 15 minutes. And those school music classes seem to be about a lot of things other than music. My kids can tell us the life story of the music teacher, with most of the facts related to anything but music.So who is to blame for the pressure parents now have to assume to provide sports and the arts for their kids? Some blame the schools. It's very convenient. Some blame the Feds. They're the ones who have cut education dollars and increased testing standards. But the fact remains that as of right now if my kids are to get music lessons and art lessons and sports lessons, then I have to pay. So when money is tight and youngest child asks when he gets to start taking lessons or playing a sport, what should I do? Do I pull some of my kids out of the activities? How do I choose from among music, sports, and all the other good stuff?I think there is a way to encourage parents to provide their kids these outside enrichment opportunities.The solution is called tax credits.If the government were to provide a tax credit for each child who plays organized sports and/or takes a full year of music/art lessons, parents would have a tremendous incentive. Enrollment in these necessary but neglected programs would increase, our children would be better off, pressure would be taken off schools for not providing these programs, and it would help me see a little bit of light trying to get through the end of the family budget tunnel.THE FACTS: We provide tax breaks for: extra large breast implants/illegal bookmaking businesses/donated underwear.Why not sports and the arts for every child?

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