Athletics likely another casualty of budget cuts


POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Several principals and teachers warned the proposed cuts in education would have a major effect on athletics at public schools, eliminating many coaching positions and raising the potential for injuries.

“;Student athletes will have less instructional time, and we'll be jeopardizing the athletes' health and safety on the playing field,”; Waipahu High School wrestling coach Stacie Nii told a state Board of Education committee last night.

Members of the Budget and Fiscal Accountability Committee put off deciding on a proposed budget and scheduled a special board meeting for July 1.

They said they didn't want to pass a budget bill until Gov. Linda Lingle signs the state budget on June 30, giving them a firm idea of the deficit they're facing.

Lingle has said she plans a $278 million cut in the Department of Education's biennial budget.

;[Preview]    Board of Education Faces Budget Cuts

The Legislature and governor have proposed $211 million in cuts for this upcoming fiscal year, about 12 percent of the school system's budget.

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The board yesterday sent a letter to the Senate president and House speaker asking them for a special session of the Legislature to allot more education funds by using the state rainy day and hurricane emergency funds and raising the general excise tax.

Board Chairman Garrett Toguchi said he's spoken to legislators who are willing to talk about the issue.

Meanwhile, the board has been negotiating with labor unions to put department employees on furlough to reduce the budget deficit.

Toguchi said at the most, the number of furlough days could amount to 36 for employees who worked 12 months a year and 30 days for those working 10 months annually.

During the meeting, Ivalee Sinclair, chairman of the Special Education Advisory Council, testified her group supported a special legislative session to raise the general excise tax.

Sinclair pointed out that a similar tax was passed to develop a rail transit system for Honolulu.

“;If we can do that for rail, why can't we do that for education?”; she said.

Radford High School girls basketball coach Tani Dutro said fewer coaches mean less supervision.

Dutro said in certain exercises, such as pre-conditioning and weightlifting, the students risk injury without proper supervision.

Dutro, as well as other coaches, said sports motivates some students to attend and finish high school.

Nolan Tokuda, a teacher and football coach at Leilehua High School, said the coaches also provide guidance outside of school.

“;Making cuts is a given,”; Tokuda said. “;What isn't is taking away these valuable mentors and guides for these children.”;

Tokuda said one Leilehua student who benefited from his football experience was Rico Newman, who won a football scholarship at a junior college in California.

Tokuda said Newman was raised by a single parent and watched his older brother go to prison and his older sister drop out of school.

But through football, Newman changed and became a team captain, Tokuda said.

“;It was his passion for football and the daily talks and interactions with the entire football staff that helped Rico turn around for the better,”; Tokuda said.