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A program in check 

The Detroit Public Schools’ chess club is in check — but it is not for lack of interest.

The district has little funding for the chess league, which had more than 1,000 students, says Dr. Paul Grams, a school administrator and the league’s director.

The league had an annual budget of $70,000, Grams says. Half of that sum came from the state’s Gifted and Talented program; the school district put up the rest, says Grams.

But the state, which is in dire financial straits, cut the funding and the school district may follow suit.

Grams says he learned about the loss of funding when he tried to schedule transportation for chess players.

Eunice Moore, director of health and physical education for Detroit Public Schools, says that many school extracurricular programs, not just chess, are at risk because of the state budget cut. The Gifted and Talented program also funded debate, band, dance, “you name it,” says Moore. The funding was cut 95 percent statewide, she says. Other school districts face the same problem. Moore says that chess and other programs are on hiatus until the district can find a way to fund them or decide which ones to permanently cut.

Mary Rose Forsyth, a parent and chess club volunteer, says the league received two grants totaling about $4,500 this year. But Forsyth says she may have to return the money if funding to run the league can’t be found.

Grams, Forsyth and others are trying to raise the money.

Several chess league players wrote letters to Dr. Kenneth Burnley, chief executive of the district. In one, Northern High School student Justin Walker said his grade point average improved from 1.0 to 3.0 due to playing chess.

“There have been studies showing that chess playing fosters better self-esteem and concentration in kids,” says Dr. Ed Mandell, who has a doctorate in education and sociology, and owns All the King’s Men Chess Supplies in Warren. “Studies have found chess playing is related to school performance.”

Maybe the school district should consider cutting football instead.

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