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No More Jimmy Rollins, No More Dontrelle Willis
2008-02-26 14:47
by Ken Arneson

In an age when African-American interest and participation in baseball has been steadily waning, my alma mater, Encinal High School in Alameda, CA, has been remained perhaps the best pipeline of African-American talent in the country. Encinal has produced a Hall of Famer in Willie Stargell, an MVP in Jimmy Rollins, and a Rookie of the Year in Dontrelle Willis, all of whom have not only been great players, but also great ambassadors of the game, as well.

Unfortunately, the pipeline may soon be shut off. The state of California is facing a massive budget deficit, and Governor Schwarzenegger's budget cuts hits the Alameda Unified School District particularly hard. AUSD receives less money per student from than any other city in its county. That's because AUSD used to get subsidized with federal money back when the Alameda Naval Air Station was operational. The Naval Air Station closed in 1997, but the historical funding rates from the state have remained intact. And for some complicated political reasons I can never quite understand, those low funding rates are extremely unlikely to change.

AUSD has already slashed $7 million from its budget over the last seven years, has already increased revenue by passing a parcel tax on Alameda properties, and is now operating about as leanly as anyone could expect from a government agency. But with this new budget, it has to somehow find another $4-$5 million. These new cuts will really be painful.

The proposed new budget eliminates funding for all high school athletics in Alameda. If there's going to be another Jimmy Rollins or Dontrelle Willis coming out of Alameda, charity will be required.

You'd hope that perhaps AUSD could find a way around this, but I can't see how. High school sports seems like a luxury compared to impact of closing two or three schools, firing music and art teachers, and increasing class sizes by 50% in kindergarten through third grades. The only way out I can see is if somehow people can be convinced that sometimes--sometimes--there's a right time to raise taxes instead of lowering them.

I'm not optimistic, but I'll be heading to Sacramento tomorrow to join a PTA Advocacy Day gathering to see what we can do.

2008-02-26 15:48:42
1.   Xeifrank
Sounds bad. Would the kids be allowed to participate on teams of another high school outside of the city? Not easy to do, but an alternative nonetheless.
vr, Xei
2008-02-26 15:50:18
2.   Rebuilding Season
That's sad. All the bay area schools have been hit hard over the recent years. Coaches at my high school get paid 8 dollars a day--the schools just can't afford to give them a real salary.
2008-02-26 16:21:47
3.   wireroom
Dude, I proudly pay my taxes and see it as I am helping the society I live in. In turn, that will make my life better. A little raise intaxes sometimes for the betterment of society doesn't bother me. Great point!
2008-02-26 16:41:03
4.   mehmattski
Hey, it worked for Chapel Hill, NC. The citizens there voted to raise the property tax to fund the school system. When the rest of Orange County, NC resisted, Chapel Hill "seceded" from the county's school system.

Today, East Chapel Hill High School is consistently rated in the 10 ten public schools in the nation. If only the rest of the world had their priorities straight.

2008-02-26 16:45:33
5.   Ken Arneson
4 Yeah, I think people are less resistant to raising taxes when they can see specifically what the money will be used for.

The problem here is that (a) Alameda already voted to raise property taxes just a few years ago, and (b) the California state constitution requires a 2/3 majority for a tax increase vote to pass. It'll be quite an uphill battle to get 2/3s of Alameda voters to approve another property tax increase just a few years after the first one.

2008-02-26 16:46:49
6.   MC Safety
What a bummer. Best of luck.
2008-02-26 17:20:43
7.   Xeifrank
Perhaps the state should keep budgets the same for schools and then actually on top of that use the money from the lottery, that was actually suppose to go to the schools, for the schools. It's just a shell game, they use the lottery money for the schools, but just take the money from the budget that was already going there for something else. That's why I'm not crazy about state lotteries or Indian casino money going to the state, because of the shell game that takes place. /rant
vr, Xei
2008-02-26 17:25:16
8.   underdog
So sad.

I wonder if someone alerted Rollins and Willis, if they'd donate some money back to their former school system? They have a bit of spare change. Not ideal, certainly, since I'm a believer that the government should actually (gasp!) fund schools over anything else, but in a crisis like this, someone should start a campaign...

2008-02-26 23:42:23
9.   MobiusKlein
Had to comment - funding cuts are in the pipeline for San Francisco schools too.
Went to a board meeting tonight, and the number was 500 jobs to be cut.

The agenda even had a section on revisions to the seniority rankings for layoffs.

So Willis donating a million to Alameda won't do squat for the thousand other school districts in California.

2008-02-27 20:11:14
10.   chri5
It's a sad commentary on our society that we are so shortsighted and selfish that we would rather keep our taxes low at the expense of our future.

You couldn't count the number of times I've tried to convince people I work with that our taxes are too low. Unfortunately, they just see their bottom line, and can't think in the long-term best interest of the larger society.

2008-03-02 10:56:09
11.   Lexinthedena
Money keeps getting re-directed, and almost always at the cost of the youth. I went to a California high school that was horribly underfunded, and to know that it only getting worse is endlessly frustrating. Prisons and the Military have more space for young people. Sad Sad Sad.

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