California High School Students Denied Sports Programs

Graphic / The Kansas City Star / MCT

Richard Duboc

The sweeping budget cuts of newly elected Governor Jerry Brown are hurting California’s colleges and universities, with the UC and the CSU systems both slated to receive $500 million in cuts.

Even though California’s K-12 education has not been additionally targeted by Brown, schools across the state are still reeling from the budget cuts implemented by his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most recent of which began in September.

Programs on the chopping block include extracurricular activities and classes that do not adhere to the state’s core curriculum. The situation is so dire, that many California high schools are on the verge of canceling athletics all together.

In December, the Alameda Board of Education approved “Plan B” in response to their $11 million budget deficit. Over the next year, half of the schools in the Alameda Unified School Districts will be closed down. The only thing can prevent this drastic measure is if a parcel tax is passed, which will appear on a ballot shortly.

In light of these grim circumstances, it may be easy to overlook that athletics across the district will also be cut as a result of “Plan B.”

One might ask why sports have such an important impact on teenage students, especially when compared to academic studies. The answer lies in the fact that for many students, athletics are the reason they show up to school and give an effort in their classes.

“It is indeed a crisis of the proportion of an emergency,” said California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at a press conference in Sacramento last Friday, soon after being sworn in.
Torlakson stated that 174 of the state’s school districts are facing financial distress. He is not optimistic that Governor Brown will do anything to alleviate the current drain on public education in California.

In December, the Hayward Unified School District reported a projected deficit of $8.2 million. It is unknown how this will affect Tennyson, Mt. Eden, Brenkwitz, or Hayward high school athletic programs. Economic woes are supposed to take a heavy toll on Hayward schools outside the arena of sports.

However, in the greater area around Concord, supporters of Mt. Diablo School District athletics know firsthand what it’s like to survive budget cuts of this magnitude. Last year, sports across the six High School school districts would have been completely canceled if the United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation (UMDAF) had not been able to rally the necessary funding from parents and local donors.

After successfully saving this school year for the thousand of student athletes, the UMDAF is facing another complete shut down if they don’t raise over a million dollars by the start of the next academic year.

It is hard to imagine that programs such as the Concord High School Football Team, which won the NCS Division II Championship this season, may be abandoned in a few short months.

“I think we counted close to 4,000, so that’s 4,000 people on the street next year if we don’t have sports,” said Pat Middendorf, the Athletic Director of Clayton Valley High School.

Middendorf touches on the life-and-death consequences that face High School students if after school activities are halted. Along with the physical activity and the possibility of college scholarships, athletics are great educational opportunities for young people who are often at risk of engaging in destructive behavior if left up to their own devises.

The UMDAF boosters are currently in the midst of a huge fundraising push which includes everything from a 5K run, T-shirt sales, and sponsorship with local businesses, including a local winery. The entire community has seemed to embrace the cause, which is more urgent in today’s current economic climate.

Since May the group has helped raised $548,000, but still needs $652,000 to make up the difference. Despite the generous giving of the holiday season, it may be a daunting task for the UMDAF to raise more than half of the necessary funds over the course of the following months.

If they are not successful, students around Concord and across the nation will be left without what is possibly the biggest positive influence in their lives.