In the wake of the Los Angeles Unified School District's plan to charge youth sports groups as much as $600 a day to use any of the district's playing fields on weekends, a Valley Youth Conference spokesman said Wednesday the conference will stage a massive demonstration against the district on Monday.
Vic Farhood, a Valley Youth Conference football coach and a member of that group's board of directors, said the demonstration would be staged at the district's permit-issuing offices at Hughes Junior High in Woodland Hills.
"They've stabbed us in the back with this plan," Farhood said. "Before they get away with it, we plan on making plenty of noise. They are about to turn thousands of kids away from athletics and out onto the street."
The school district, which faces a deficit this year of as much as $400 million, will vote June 25 on the plan that would end the free--or very inexpensive--use of its fields and gymnasiums on weekends. The proposal calls for an hourly fee of $42.30 for the private use of any of the district's school fields or gyms, in addition to a $480 fee per event.
The district said those figures will cover the cost of utilities and custodial services for such events. Currently, nonprofit organizations such as youth sports groups use the fields and gyms free or at a nominal cost. Farhood said a fee of $175 was regularly paid to the district for events requiring the use of school stadiums for football or soccer games.
One of the preliminary moves made by the Board of Education to deal with the $400 million deficit was to cut $1.3 million from the school district's Youth Services division, which oversees use of the fields and gyms. That action was taken last Thursday in a straw vote. If that vote is upheld in the board's meeting next week, the new fee schedule would go into effect immediately, according to Donald Wertz, the district's recreation director.
"If that happens, our programs die," said Farhood, whose group organizes sporting events for more than 9,000 youths in the Valley, Thousand Oaks, West Los Angeles and Santa Clarita. "When the sports programs die, the kids will be in the malls playing video games. They'll be climbing over fences and spray-painting walls. A lot of them will go that route with nothing else to do."
Farhood is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division.
The proposed fees also could create hardship for many American Legion baseball teams. Of the 30 teams in District 20, which spans the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, 13 have City fields as home sites. Legion teams are funded by posts throughout the region. Sponsor posts already provide much of the funding for game uniforms, equipment, umpires and extraneous costs.
Granada Hills West Coach George Saul said the fees could bring the total cost per game to about $100. No teams in District 20 charge admission.
District 20 play started this month and continues through the district playoffs, which end July 26. Furthermore, the district playoffs are scheduled for Birmingham High, a City school.
The school district said the new price structure would bring about $1 million a year into the district. Farhood said the district shouldn't plan on that.
"They say it will generate $1 million a year for them, but it won't generate anything because no one will pay it," he said. "The fields will be empty and the kids will be wandering the streets on weekends.
"I understand the district's plight. I wish I had the answer. I don't want to see teachers and other school workers laid off, but there must be a solution to this. We can't kick these kids out onto the street. You just can't do that."