Barbara Fiege, LAUSD Athletics Director and CIF Los Angeles City Section Commissioner, said at last Saturday’s Valley Schools Task Force meeting that athletics, just as other LAUSD programs, have felt the impact of school budget cuts, limiting funding for coaching staff, transportation, etc. Adding to the financial difficulties, 35 new high schools, which typically have athletic programs, are set to open in the fall.
Currently, there are 84 high school athletic programs, consisting of both male and female teams, with roughly 35,000 students involved. The Board and Athletic Department have altered policy and their management to keep athletic programs running. With help from LA84 and several professional sports teams such as the Dodgers and Lakers, the Athletics Department has raised $1.4 million dollars in grants to cover and exceed $1.3 million for this year’s general operation costs which cover the cost of coach stipends. Still, the fate of future year athletic financing rides on additional outside contributions, said Fiege. The cost of transporting teams has also come under strict scrutiny, with the intent to create more efficiency and save costs. Now, each bus request must be approved, teams are combined on buses, and the providing of busses are limited to those teams with more than 10 athletes.
Acknowledging the positive impacts of athletic programs, Fiege noted -- gang prevention, 90% student graduation rates for athletes, higher attendance, 2.0 GPA requirement, leadership building, etc. Also noting the importance of intramural sports in gang prevention, Fiege said, “Studies show athletes attend school six to twelve more days than other students and if you look at averages of money given to schools from daily attendance, these programs pay for themselves.” This year, assistant coaching positions were cut, but most sports programs should continue. Fiege added that while cuts have affected many staff, we do not often hear complaints from coaches: “they don’t get enough acknowledgement and they are very passionate about what they do.”