NEW IBERIA — Even though not mandated by the state to do so, the Iberia Parish School Board on Wednesday voted 10-2 to fund a youth athletic sports injury program to the tune of $15,000 for all schools.
The funding is the result of two acts that were signed into law after the conclusion of the 2011 legislative session — the Sports Injury Management Program and the Louisiana Youth Concussion Act.
Superintendent Dale Henderson said the acts force the School Board to implement new athletic injury programs with no clear direction as to who is to pay for them.
Henderson added that because the cost is small, he recommended that the board pay for it out of the general fund.
Member Robbie LeBlanc, who voted against the motion, said each school should pay the cost, which comes to $20 per athlete, adding that the priority of schools is to educate before funding extracurricular activities.
He added that with the slowing economy and increased pressure from the Legislature to take on more costs, there is little room in the budget to pay for such programs. He also warned that once they spend money on this, they will be expected to so next year as well.
“We are jumping the gun,” LeBlanc said.
Henderson said that he felt that the cause of protecting students from harm is worth funding. Next year they will reexamine who will pay for the program, with maybe the schools paying for it.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sent the new acts to his office two weeks ago and with little direction on what to do, he said he didn’t think burdening the schools just as they open for business was right.
One act outlines the process of how a school system takes a student out of athletic competition for serious injuries and puts him or her back on the field. The other sets up a program to test all youths in athletic programs between the ages of 6 and 19 prior to the school year to determine their mental states prior to a concussion.
If an injury takes place, the youth will be tested again in order to determine if a concussion has occurred, said Chad Arceneaux, manager of Louisiana Athletic Care of New Iberia, who also will be administering the program.
Also during the meeting, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, asked the School Board to meet with the legislative delegation prior to the 2012 legislative session. He said that if they know what the board’s concerns are, the delegation can better craft or amend legislation to help ease their concerns, especially with mandated expenses.