Budget may force district to cut sports

December 11, 2008 11:38:46 AM PST
A San Jose school district is facing such a serious budget crisis the superintendent is now proposing to cut all sports programs. It would affect 11 high schools in the East Side Union High School District.

The head of the district said that even if the cuts are approved, he will champion to find other revenue streams to keep sports alive. But right now, no matter the sport -- from badminton to golf, soccer, basketball and football -- all the district's 40 teams are potentially on the chopping block beginning next year.

James Lick high school students may no longer use their new and expensive track and field for school sports any more if a new district-wide budget plan is approved to completely eliminate all sports.

"It's going to hurt the kids," said Carol Ramirez, parent.

"I don't want to stop playing," said Elizabeth Fernandez.

Elizabeth Fernandez, a junior on the James Lick high school soccer team, is one of thousands of students who would be affected by a proposal to cut out all athletic programs at 11 high schools in San Jose's East Side Union High School District. Even students who don't play on any sports team disagree with such a drastic move.

"I think it's pretty whacked, because we need sports, because like that's what gets people motivated to keep their grades up," said Destiny Hyatt, junior.

"Some students may be like involved in gangs and that's the only thing that might keep them out of the streets," said Ernesto Ruiz, sophomore.

Superintendent Bob Nunez tells ABC7 he doesn't feel good about it, but that this may be the only way to save academic programs. Since less money is coming from the cash-strapped state. Nunez is presenting a budget plan to the school board on Thursday night -- he's proposing to cut overall spending by $11.4 million, with $2.1 million from sports and just over $9 million from teachers and other staff and services.

"I've been here again 24 years, and I love this place," said Ray Jimenez, James Lick athletic director.

Jimenez believes sports are a critical element for a healthy community, both socially and academically.

"I see it every year that we tell kids that they have to maintain certain grades to be eligible and they do," said Jimenez.

They need to find other ways to fix the budget to support the kids," said Ramirez.

The proposed budget cuts to the athletic programs would not eliminate funding for regular physical education. Although everyone seems to agree school sports is a positive element. The reality of the state's $11 billion budget shortfall looms even larger. Even with the uncertainty, state law requires that by Dec. 15th, districts submit balanced budgets for this year and the next two. The district will hold its board meeting at 6 pm on Thursday night.


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