Public school districts and those who work for them would do well to remember one thing: All their facilities and salaries, and a good portion of their pensions, are paid for by the taxpayers.
The taxpayers have been very generous too. Teachers and administrators are very well paid in California, and taxpayers generally will dip into their pockets time and again to ensure facilities are top notch.
Despite that, some school districts just keep trying to get a little more, even if it means they end up double charging taxpayers.
So it has been with the Hesperia Unified School District, which until recently was charging thousands of dollars for some nonprofit groups to use HUSD facilities.
Years ago, school districts never would have thought of doing such a thing. Schools were public facilities in every sense of the word — their playgrounds, athletic fields and even auditoriums were used by residents at their will.
Little League teams practiced on school fields, as did Pop Warner, American Youth Soccer Organization and other teams.
Adult recreational leagues frequently made use of school facilities, and young and old used tracks, tennis courts and baseball and softball diamonds.
But school districts seem to be forgetting where all their money comes from. Thus Hesperia and other districts had taken to charging nonprofits exorbitant amounts to use tennis courts, athletic fields and the like. One group had a bill of $11,000 to use tennis courts, an amount that caused the group to cancel its program.
Thanks to Staff Writer Matthew Cabe's investigative series earlier this year, that now seems to be changing — at least partially — at HUSD.
HUSD has devised three categories for nonprofits to determine how much they pay. Groups that promote HUSD students, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and YMCA, can use facilities free of charge. Nonprofits that use facilities in a manner that results in wear and tear are charged based on that wear and tear and whether or not district employees are required to open, close or clean up facilities.
We agree with HUSD Board member Cody Gregg, though, and would prefer a more uniform policy. While we salute HUSD for addressing the issue and lowering fees, we still think fees of any kind amount to double billing of the taxpayers.
By the very nature of their use, school facilities endure wear and tear virtually every day. Since the bulk of these nonprofits are providing activities for our youth, a better practice would be to welcome them with open arms and no fees.
It's hard enough to keep children off the streets nowadays without making it difficult for groups trying to serve a need and keep youngsters occupied. They shouldn't be forced out of business by high fees that they shouldn't have to pay.
Public school districts need to give the taxpayers more reasons to support them instead of more reasons to advocate for charter schools or a voucher system. Eliminating facilities fees would be a good place to start.