Illinois teams start practicing amid school funding stalemate

MOLINE -

There's nothing quite like the first day of football practice at Moline High.

"It's exciting," said incoming Athletic Director Dick Knar, on Monday, August 7.  "This is what we do it for."

But as the Maroons begin preparing for the season, they face more concerns than winning or losing.

This season, there's politics in the playbook -- fumbling in Springfield over state funding for education.

"I think it's terrible," Knar said.  "The biggest thing about that is it hurts the kids."

Some two weeks before classes begin here, teens already are practicing for the flag team.  It's part of a busy nine-sport Fall season at Moline High.

"We don't consider ourselves a team as much as a family," said Jamie Austin, their coach and school nurse.

This family, however, depends on state funding.  Now, there are some worries that sports and activities could be cut short by the budget stalemate.

"You wonder where things are going to go," she continued.  "Try not to let that affect your job.  Try not to think about it.  Just focus on the task at hand."

While Moline teams can last the school year without state funding, other schools aren't as fortunate.  A meeting on August 30 with Western Big Six athletic directors should help to clarify the situation.

"We're on the first day of football, and that's how we're going to approach it," Knar said.

He doesn't appreciate state lawmakers passing the political football.

"Any time that you politicize anything that has to do with the betterment of kids is wrong," he said.

Also, there are long-term concerns that the Illinois image from the political back-and-forth will drive  more school families out of state.

"They might look across the river or somewhere else and say, 'I want my kid going here or going there,'" Knar continued.

Moline is set to open its football season at home against DeKalb on Friday, August 25.

The Maroons plan to be a destination for education well past this season.