McAlester Public Schools gets a big thumbs up from the News-Capital this week.

Why?

The leadership of the school district — including Superintendent Marsha Gore and Business ManagerBrent Grilliot — did not get stuck in the mud, so to speak, over the loss of McAlester High School football coach Bryan Pratt to the Razorback state. Pratt accepted a job in Bentonville, Arkansas, this past week and we certainly understand why: the job pays significantly more than his job in McAlester.

Also, Pratt is simply doing what many of us would do under the circumstances. He is a winning, successful football coach and when you succeed in your profession, people, businesses and institutions who are seeking great talent are willing to pay you more for that talent. This is what happened here — Pratt won lots of games as a Buffalo and did a great job building a program, and Bentonville was willing to pay him more than McAlester was.

Thus, he departs. Good for him. Understandable and we wish Pratt the best of success and thank him for all of the victories, developing a very special football program here in McAlester and teaching kids.

But one fact does stand out when we look at what happened. Namely, Bentonville will pay Pratt $96,000 (italics for emphasis) to coach football, and he doesn’t have to teach. That compares to $67,925 a year including benefits in McAlester, where he does have to teach. 

Paying $96,000 a year to coach football at a public high school. 

Really?

We hope at least some of that money is underwritten by private donations. Otherwise, it’s abundantly clear that paying a football coach is more important in Bentonville than funding education.

Even more alarming is the reporting done by our new Sports Editor Adrian O’Hanlon III. He reported that public school districts in Oklahoma, Texas and other states are paying similar, high-priced salaries for football coaches just to coach. Very troubling in a world where teachers can’t afford to rent an apartment because of atrociously low teacher salaries and considering Oklahoma has a very serious problem with teachers leaving the state for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

We commend Dr. Gore and Grilliot for not throwing taxpayer dollars at a good football coach to keep him here. We love football — and winning — as much as anyone, but education and adequate funding for teacher salaries and educating kids always must come first.

Football, after all, is and always will be just a game. A great one, but a game nonetheless. 

And, it appears Gore and Grilliot understand that properly funding our education system is what leads to the most meaningful victories in life.

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