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L.A. Schools Get $10 Million for Sports Programs

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Chalk up an assist to the Alpha Beta and the Boys/Viva Supermarkets Foundation, which announced last week that it will contribute $10 million to save sports programs in the Los Angeles public schools from an onslaught of major budget cutbacks.

"We could not stand on the sidelines as athletic programs stood on the brink of devastating budget cuts,'' Fred Snowden, the foundation's executive director and the former men's basketball coach at the University of Arizona, said in a statement last week.

"We believe these programs are part of the academic and social fabric that holds our schools and city together,'' he added.

The grant is the largest single donation ever made to the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to Jeff Horton, a member of the school board, and comes in the wake of some $400 million in budget cuts sustained by the district over the past year.

"We think it's wonderful that private enterprise is donating such a large amount of money to the public school system,'' said Catherine Carey, a spokeswoman for United Teachers-Los Angeles. "We're in such tight budget times that it certainly is money that will be well spent, and will [help] provide the extracurricular activities that the students in Los Angeles so desperately need.''

A Three-Year Commitment

Elsewhere around the country, other fiscally strapped districts have increasingly turned to the private sector to resuscitate athletic programs. Last fall, for example, the Chicago public schools received close to $1 million from area corporations and sports celebrities after the city's high school principals voted to eliminate sports and extracurricular activities as a result of a lack of funds. (See Education Week Nov. 4, 1992.)

In Los Angeles, some 27,000 of the district's 641,200 students currently participate in interscholastic athletic programs, which cost about $3.7 million a year, according to officials of the supermarkets foundation.

The foundation plans to contribute approximately $3.3 million annually for the next three years to cover the cost of transportation, equipment, and uniforms.

The district expects to continue providing the $400,000 needed for coaches' salaries.

"This comes at a time when there's so much tension in Los Angeles, and the young people are in such a bad way,'' Mr. Horton said. "It's really heartening to find a supermarket chain willing to do this.''

Since 1991, the district has cut about $1 million from its athletics budget, Mr. Horton said.

"This makes me breathe a sigh of relief,'' he said, adding that the district hopes to mobilize the Hollywood entertainment community to support performing-arts activities in a similar fashion.

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