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.