Saturday, February 16, 2008

LAUSD says it's pay to play time

By Paul Clinton, Staff Writer | Daily Breeze

02/16/2008  - For the local youth groups that use the gyms and fields of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the free ride is over.

Soccer leagues, volleyball clubs and basketball groups that have had gratis access to LAUSD facilities from the Harbor Area to Carson will need to pony up beginning March 1.

smf notes: Though the Daily Breeze is rightfully South Bay-centric, the fees described will be applied districtwide.

The district will charge the groups fees to defray usage costs and raise revenue, officials said.

At a Thursday facilities committee meeting, the move gained the support of Richard Vladovic, the San Pedro-to-Watts representative on the LAUSD board.

Vladovic initially opposed the fees but changed his position after Sacramento lawmakers told the district it would need to cut $460 million from its 2008-09 budget.

"The reality of the times right now is we have to find a way to cut a half-billion dollars," said David Kooper, Vladovic's chief of staff.

Hundreds of nonprofit youth groups across LAUSD have begun bracing for the bills to use district facilities and athletic fields as the district launches the controversial "pay to play" program.

The revenue would offset annual facilities costs of $3.8 million.

Not surprisingly, the fees aren't being greeted warmly.

Albert Hannemann's Dig 4 Kids provides weekly tutoring, volleyball and fitness activities at Carson High for local middle and elementary school students.

"This is ridiculous," Hannemann said. "They're trying to make up shortfalls in other

areas, so they're going to charge nonprofits."

The group might have to pay more than $500 for its 10-week program.

The fees won't affect groups contracted by LAUSD to run after-

school programs at schools under the Beyond the Bell banner.

As one example, the district pays 30 Boys and Girls Clubs in the Los Angeles area about $6 million to provide programs.

Smaller local groups will be paying the fees. More than a half-dozen other South Bay area groups would be affected. Here's a short list:

Sharks Basketball and Raptors/Pistons Basketball at Dana Middle School in San Pedro.

Big for Kids, Blazers Girls Basketball and Force Soccer Club at Narbonne High School in Harbor City.

South Bay F.O.R. Junior Sports Association, based in Gardena.

Wilmington YMCA submitted an application to run a soccer league at Wilmington Middle School and might not be able to afford the fees, said Kathryn Friedman, who manages the issuance of the permits.

Most school districts in the South Bay already charge local groups to use gyms and fields.

"Schools can't afford to run themselves, let alone provide services for groups in the community," said Manhattan Beach school board President Amy Howorth. "If you've got volleyball teams in (your gym) every night pounding the court, there's going to be wear and tear."

In LAUSD, about 700 to 1,000 youth groups would be affected. The district hopes the fees will generate $2.1 million in revenue next year.

Under the LAUSD plan, groups will either be charged $10 an hour or $25.50 an hour, depending on whether they can show they serve LAUSD students. They also must pay a $5 daily charge and buy a $77.10 four-month permit.

Some groups are exempt, including the Boy and Girl Scouts and parent-teacher associations.


Staff writer Brandon Lowrey contributed to this article.

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