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Budget ax may swing at sports

According to reports, school district will no longer pay for substitute teachers for coaches

Posted: February 14, 2009 1:21 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
The state budget crunch may mean individual schools have to pay for substitute teachers when coaches travel with their teams, missing a day of school, according to some reports Friday.

The funding pinch could leave William S. Hart Union High School District athletic programs unable to travel far for competition, hampering their preparation for playoffs and tournaments.

Teams might have to stay closer to the Santa Clarita Valley for non-league or tournament games because the individual schools, instead of the district, now have to pay for substitutes.

With the belt-tightening going on because of California’s budget crisis, schools have less money for substitutes as it is.

Valencia High Principal Paul A. Priesz said Friday the policy takes effect immediately. The report could not be confirmed with district officials because offices were closed Friday.

Schools would likely have to divert funds from elsewhere to pay substitutes, whose tab was previously picked up by the district, Priesz said.

Priesz said the problem is not as big as it seems, but it has caused confusion, especially heading into the four-day weekend.

There is some confusion on whether coaches will lose their day’s pay if they have to miss school to travel to a sporting event.

Priesz said Friday his school would find a way to not make this happen.

The state Legislature is scheduled to vote on a budget package today. The proposal includes $8.6 billion in education cuts, and local schools have been scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet as they face uncertain funding.

The Hart district is looking at the possibility of $34.5 million in cuts over the next years, said Hart Chief Financial Officer Sue Guthrie on Thursday.

When the budget is finally approved, other cuts could be examined.

Guthrie said a reduction of money for transportation, coaches’ stipends and freshman sports could all be looked at.

But she emphasized that all those possibilities are speculatory at this point.

Valencia head softball coach Donna Lee said she was “outraged” when she first heard the news of the district’s order, thinking she would either have to use a paid day off or not get paid for team travel days.

“I know it will affect (coaches) because we’ll have to end up paying for subs,” Lee said.

Yet Lee’s husband, Greg, who works in the district office, told her that nothing is certain until next week, she said.

If the district says it can no longer pay for substitutes for non-league games and playoffs, the move could have a ripple effect.

For example, Lee has taken her softball teams to the prestigious Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz., over the past two seasons.

In 2007, the Vikings won the tournament and went on to be recognized as national champions.

If teams don’t travel to such tournaments, they may not receive national recognition.

“Coaches will have to re-evaluate what tournaments they go to,” Priesz said.

Being forced to limit travel for non-league competition could impact teams’ rankings, reputations and most importantly levels of play because of the notion that playing better competition will make a team better.

“If coaches are trying to maintain a level of competition in this valley, they’re going to have to at times seek out the best teams (out of the area),” said Brian Stiman, Valencia athletic director.

Furthermore, if transportation is cut, a program may have to rely more on fundraisers for travel.

Much of equipment funding comes from the Associated Student Bodies of the respective schools, but according to Guthrie, that revenue source is down since stricter nutritional standards have been placed on the sales of food and beverage in all California schools.

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