Monday, August 07, 2006

Paying for the privilege

This school year, Washington Twp. becomes the first school district in Mercer County to charge a fee for participation in extracurricular activities and athletics:

After receiving less state aid than anticipated for this year's budget, the school district has become the only one in Mercer County to implement a fee for students who want to try out for athletic teams and extracurricular activities.
Though the decision has sparked complaints from parents, charging a $100 fee was the only way the district could avoid a drastic increase in property taxes, said Superintendent John Szabo.
"Unfortunately we were faced with a choice," Szabo said. "We're not getting the state funding we need, and we felt it would be better to charge the people most affected than raise taxes."

Very few other districts in Our Fair State have such a fee, and of those that do, Washington's is one of the highest. The fee will be waived if families cannot afford it.

An interesting point later in the article:

In Hopewell Valley, however, the school attempted a $50 athletic fee but stopped after two years because it became more trouble than it was worth, said Steve Timko, former athletic di rector.
"Having a fee was difficult be cause when every person was paying the same dollar amount, they looked for the same amount of playing time that went with it," Timko said.

How about the difference not just within an activity, but between activities? Football costs the school dramatically, but chess club barely registers on the cost scale. Parents will be less willing to participate in any fund-raises, because they've already ponied up a lot of bucks. Also, even with a waiver for lower-income families, I bet there will be kids who won't participate because of the fee, being too nervous to ask about it when there are financial troubles at home, or simply embarrassed that they need it waived.

Even with such concerns, apparently many other schools nationwide have activity fees. I hope other school districts in Central New Jersey don't jump on this bandwagon.


Rob said...

And this is a district with a new high school, recerntly expanded middle and elementary schools, and taxpayers paying through the nose for high quality schools and education. Puzzling indeed that such a rich district has to do this.


Jack said...

I actually don't think it's that bad of an idea. But kids should not have to pay $100 to play chess or go to Environmental Club meetings. As much as parents already spend on sports equiptment in wealthy areas, they won't even flinch at $150-$200 fee.

This plan only works in a upper middleclass/upper class town though.

- BlueWaveNJ

Jersey Girl said...

"students who want to try out for athletic teams"
...gee mom, sorry I didn't make the team, but thx for paying anyway!

Jack, I'd flinch at that sign up cost...everything keeps adding up!

DBK said...

How about this? Close down the football program and try to get a math program started?

Jack said...

Here's the problem guys. Football actually earns some money back through tickey sales.

- BlueWaveNJ

Sharon GR said...

It earns some money, this is true- but the cost of the refs, coaches, equipment, stadium lights, etc. certainly aren't covered by it, I'm sure. Not by a long shot.

It's not a problem, Jack. It's a consideration that I wonder if was taken into account. I can see some folks balking at paying the $5 to attend because they already chipped in $100 so their son could play, $100 for their daughter to cheer, and $X in fundraising costs.

Rob S. said...

It doesn't seem that difficult of a proposition for each coach/instructor/whatever to figure out the cost per kid for their activity. There's no reason chess club or French club should cost as much as football or baseball, but there's also no reason (aside from laziness or a wrongheaded egalitarianism) for the fees for these activities to be the same. (I'm personally not sure whether the fees are a good idea or bad idea in principle. But if it's a one-size-fits-all fee, it's unfair to the students in low-cost activities who are subsidizing the others, and a bad system in execution.)