Last week the Hesperia School District and its school board considered a long list of possible cuts that may need to be taken if another budget shortfall should occur in the coming school year, but there was one category that was noticeably absent: athletics.


The laundry list is extensive with cuts to teachers, administrators, counselors, librarians, psychologists, transportation, maintenance, and alternative education to name a few. Most of these categories are looking at cuts well above $100,000 each, with one approaching $1,000,000 alone. Some of these cuts may be prudent, but what seems to be the "elephant in the room" is that once again the athletic departments remain relatively untouched.


The only mention of cuts in this proposal is a modest $41,779 cut to the athletic stipends (This is money paid to a teacher, above their contract for coaching their sport). While that may seem substantial, a little perspective is needed to clarify the picture. The proposal lists three categories of stipends: academic, athletic, and other. Academic receives $173,076 annually, athletics, a staggering $361,477, and other comes in at $161,765. The district is proposing an 18% cut in the total budget for stipends which works out to a $41,779 cut to each of the three. This amounts to a 24% cut to academics, only 12% to athletics, and 26% to other.


Are we really surprised by the poor performance of our students when the district spends more than twice as much on its coaches than it does on extra programs to help improve academics? Then, on top of that, wants to cut them by twice as much!


It may seem as though I am against sports, but it is actually the exact opposite. I love sports, both playing and watching them, and realize that they do provide a benefit to some students. In a perfect world, we could have every sport fully funded for any student that would wish to participate. Unfortunately, we are looking at another year with significant budget cuts and athletics are not a mandatory part of any educational program. Most sports offered in high school are available through park & rec or club programs, so it's not as if our youth have no opportunity to play them. How long will our district continue to decimate academics while leaving athletics unscathed?


Let's look at the statistics:


The district wants to charge for, and cut transportation to and from school for students, but will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars transporting high school athletes to and from their events.


Students participating in academic events must often pay all their own expenses, while an athlete only has to buy an ASB card to be eligible to play any number of sports.


Odds of becoming a professional athlete: 1 in approximately 25,000. Our district has less than 20,000 students, so it is unlikely that any of our students will have a career as a pro athlete.


Only about 5% of high school athletes will be offered a college scholarship, so in our district that might amount to 19 students per year.


So, HUSD will spend millions of tax dollars each year to provide facilities, coaches, uniforms, and transportation to benefit 0.001% of our student population, while they cut millions of dollars that would benefit the other 99.999%.


Parents and community members, it's time to demand that HUSD and the school board put academics ahead of athletics. Every child must have an education in order to become a productive member of society, and it's time that this school district puts its money where its mouth is. Call, write, and e-mail the district cabinet and the school board to demand that your tax dollars be spent on educating the minds of our young people first, to ensure that all students receive the education they need to become successful adults!