ENCINITAS, Calif. – Parents in the Encinitas Unified School District are fuming after the school board voted to spend $416,000 to keep a controversial yoga program alive when grant funding floundered.
The school board voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a plan to spend the money next school year on a health and wellness program that must include once-a-week yoga lessons for the district’s elementary students. The vote was an apparent compromise on a new expenditure in the 2016-17 budget created when the Sonima Foundation discontinued an ongoing grant to fund the yoga program, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Foundation spent about $4 million to launch and expand the program in recent years, and district officials proposed to set aside $800,000 to keep it going next school year, a move that prompted outrage from parents who struggle with fundraisers for school science and art expenses, EAGnews reports.
“I am extremely concerned and I am not alone,” parent Anne-Katherine Pingree told the board last month, according to the Encinitas Advocate.
“In order for us to get PE, music, and art at some campuses we have to fundraise for it. To me, the district’s priorities are out of whack and are not concurrent with the priorities of parents in the district. No one knew what was happening. There has to be transparency, responsibility and accountability to parents in the district.”
The parental outrage convinced school officials to reduce the yoga funds to $416,000 and to use the rest of the $800,000 initially budgeted for art, science, gardening and music programs, Fox 5 reports.
Superintendent Tim Baird described the yoga money as temporary “bridge funding” to keep the program going until officials can find other grants, according to the UT.
Dozens of parents opposed to the spending rallied outside of the school board offices Tuesday in a futile effort to pressure district leaders into dropping the yoga program altogether.
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“It’s a complete waste of money,” parent Anna Hysell told Fox 5. “Do it after school or before school, but let’s make sure we spend money on the important things first.”
Parent Sian Welch said he has unanswered questions about the new spending.
“Where is this $800,000 coming from?” he asked. “Why is yoga an essential part of that?”
Other parents, meanwhile, seem to think the yoga program is super awesome.
“I think it’s incredibly unique, courageous, to have a program like this,” Jacqueline Rossow, mother of an Encinitas fourth-grader, told the UT. “I think it’s forward-thinking.”