Faced with an anticipated $4.5 million shortfall in state money, school district officials may cut high school sports entirely -- basketball, swimming, tennis ... everything.

The Junior ROTC program at Encinal High School also may go, along with class-size reduction for high school freshmen in English and math.

The slate of belt-tightening recommendations from Superintendent Ardella Dailey comes before the school board tonight, when trustees will have their first chance to review them and offer feedback.

The board will vote on the proposals March 4.

The initial cost-saving measures from Dailey cover this fiscal year and total about $2.8 million. But she also proposes cutting an additional $2.2 million during the next fiscal year through "restructuring of the K-12 education program," which she said could mean closing or consolidating schools.

Other school districts, including Oakland, are wrestling with similar cuts.

The current Alameda shortfall stems from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to cut at least $4 billion in overall education spending as a way to help make up the state budget deficit.

Schwarzenegger also wants to suspend Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that guarantees K-12 schools and community colleges annual money from the state's general fund.

"I do not want to be an evil doer because the governor does not have the courage and the vision to make our children and their education a priority in the state of California," said Dailey, who believes she has been forced into calling for the cuts.


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The current recommendations follow Alameda trustees trimming $7.7 million from their budget over the past seven years.

Brad Thomas, athletic director at Alameda High School, learned about the recommendation Monday morning.

He called it a "major hit."

"I believe it's absolutely vital to have an athletic program at any high school," Thomas said. "It's part of the culture at the school. And if the overall culture takes a hit, then it will have an effect on academics."

If the board does end up approving the recommendation, Thomas said he would then expect to sit down with parents and others to look at ways to generate cash to keep the teams going.

Eliminating the funding for high school sports would save about $345,000 annually, according to Luz Cazares, the district's chief financial officer.

Closing the two swim centers, which also is in the cards, would save $120,000, Cazares said.

Also recommended are changing the hours of custodians to recoup $125,000, and reducing the number of middle school counselors to save $90,000.

But the biggest money-generator comes from the recommendation to free up $1.08 million in state-mandated reimbursement funds as a way to save about 20 jobs, including 12 teachers. The reimbursement funds go for state-mandated expenses, such as contract negotiations, testing and school accountability report cards. Alameda is looking at using the reimbursement money to help make up the shortfall in other areas.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.