Sports fees in schools: Are you seeing them rise in your district?

As public schools around the country cope with deep funding cuts, more are imposing fees for supplemental materials and for specialized programs, activities and classes.

AJC reporter Daarel Burnette is looking at the fees charged for school sports.

“I’m looking for parents in the Atlanta area to talk to me about any public school fees they’ve incurred this year for school sports. You can reach me at 404-526-5634 or email me.

The Wall Street Journal looked at this issue last year in a lengthy piece. Here is a brief excerpt:

Public-school administrators say the fees—some of which are waived for low-income families—allow them to continue to offer specialty classes and activities that would otherwise fall to the budget ax. Some parents support that approach, saying they’d rather pay for honors physics or drama than see those opportunities eliminated altogether. Some educators, too, argue that fees are good public policy. In a time of fiscal austerity, they say it’s not fair to ask taxpayers to fund an all-inclusive education that offers Advanced Placement Art History, junior varsity golf and fourth-year German with little regard for the cost.

Nationally, district after district has eliminated or cut enrichment programs for gifted students, help for struggling readers, advanced math and science courses, music, art, foreign languages, drama, sports. Some have tried asking local residents to approve higher taxes, only to be shot down at the polls. So administrators say fees are the only way to stave off even more drastic cuts.

“Things are getting tighter,” said Collene Van Noord, superintendent of the Palmyra Area School District in southeast Pennsylvania, which recently began charging $20 lab fees for many science, art and music courses. “If we can pass on the added costs for some of our more expensive courses to direct users, it seems more fair than to pass them on to the entire community” in the form of tax hikes, she said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

60 comments Add your comment

Fred ™

August 28th, 2012
12:59 pm

I read a nice story about a pro football player, a rookie I think, who donated the money to cover all the sports fees for every sport and every school in the district he grew up in.

It’s a double edged sword. While one one hand it relegates sports opportunities only to the wealthier students, (and those super athletes that the boosters will always find a way to support), on the other hand, core curriculum is more important than sports. Having already cut teachers, arts, and other programs, how can you justify big money for athletics?

It’s sad. It’s a shame that the Republican lead Georgia State Government won’t fulfill it’s Georgia Constitutional duties to fund education, instead dumping it on local municipalities while continuously trying to seize control:

Article VIII, Section I
of the Georgia Constitution

“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.”

of the Georgia Constitution

Another Voice

August 28th, 2012
1:07 pm

Forget the sports fees — it’s the parking fees that are a killer now. And just think … you paid taxes for hte school facility, including the asphalt parking lot. So, why do we let the schools charge a parking “fee’? Maybe a minor fee for a sticker, okay, but in some N. Fulton schools, this “fee” is over $300!!!!

Rise up, taxpayers!

mountain man

August 28th, 2012
1:07 pm

As long as they are voluntary, I don’t have a problem with them. It is when fees are mandatory (like at UGA) that I begin to get upset.

Teacher

August 28th, 2012
1:14 pm

@Another Voice

Take the bus.

William Casey

August 28th, 2012
1:25 pm

5+ years ago when my son played baseball at Northview, each player was expected to raise or donate $1,000. I felt sorry for the kids who played in Fall league, raised lots of money and then didn’t make the scool team in the Spring.

William Casey

August 28th, 2012
1:27 pm

I agree with “Teacher” on the parking fee deal.

Jefferson

August 28th, 2012
1:34 pm

The state is failing its primary obligation, and its ok with most as they are not concerned with it until it bites them in the ass.

Hall Mom

August 28th, 2012
1:59 pm

I note that the constitution says the state shall provide an “adequate” education, not ‘good’, not ‘college worthy’. Using fees to support anything beyond adequate is, unfortunately, fair and efficient. This is a great place for education partners to step up. If an area business needs a certain type of training for their employees, perhaps they will pay the fees for it at the local high school. And school athletics is still an extra and should pretty much pay for itself.

clanmack

August 28th, 2012
2:19 pm

If the school buy equipment and supplies on the cheap, leading to injury ,who will pay for a student who is hurt during a school sponsored function, whether it be a lab accident, a football or soccer injury or anything else? Charging fees becomes pay to play, not in keeping with the State Constitution cited above. What about scope creep? Schools today have very different standards legislated by State or Federal mandates. How do we measure where “adequate” begins and ends?
Economic reality is what it is. If the schools can’t afford to provide the “extras” then let them go and focus on the academics, until the economics improve.
My kids went through the APS system and we were able to pay the fees, sometimes barely. A lot of their classmates couldn’t. Booster clubs and fundraising became central to keeping the activities funded and active. We were the village, over and above our taxes. The bottom line is parents being involved as much as they can.

clanmack

August 28th, 2012
2:23 pm

By the way, the issue of fees is very old business. It started for us in Kindergarten with all the supplies for the whole class that were strongly “recommended,” the gift wrap sales, and all the fundraising that went on just to equip the classrooms or provide exposure to foreign language or the arts.

Judge Smails

August 28th, 2012
2:32 pm

My son is a gifted baseball player and would very much like to play for his high school team. He tried out for the team and the head coach sought me and my wife out in the crowd of parents, teling us how impressed he was with my son’s ability at the sport.

He then introduced us to the Booster Club President who sent us a vey nice email letting us know that in order for my son to get a position on the team, we would need to become boosters also.

The fee?…$2000.00 minimum, with no guarantee of playing time.

I guess it’s rec ball for us!

Solutions

August 28th, 2012
2:41 pm

Me paying taxes to support sports teams does not in any way constitute part of a basic public education. Basic to me means learning to read, write, count, and can be completed in six years at most. I demand my tax dollars back for anything in excess of that! We Republicans are very close to a super majority in Georgia, when that happens, we are cutting these worthless giveaway programs!

Concerned East Lake citizen

August 28th, 2012
2:42 pm

I paid $800.00 for my daughter to cheer in middle school!

keepin' it real

August 28th, 2012
2:44 pm

There are fees. Period. Fees everywhere for every little thing. Parking, band, sports, choir, etc…

catlady

August 28th, 2012
2:45 pm

Had fees in band and cheerleading during my children’s high school careers a good while back.

dc

August 28th, 2012
2:47 pm

take the bus….like teacher does….haha, right.

dc

August 28th, 2012
2:49 pm

don’t really have an issue paying fees for my child to play. I do have an issue with paying double the fees, so that someone else who chooses not to pay can still have their kid play. Oh, I can hear it now…..the “underprivileged” can’t afford to pay…..sob sob….as so many of them drive up in their nice cars, and throw their cigarette butts out onto the parking lot.

Have to say, it really gets old.

Football Widow

August 28th, 2012
2:52 pm

@ HallMom, school athletics most often do pay for themselves – if the counties do not take the money as “fees” as they are now in Clayton. In addition to keeping the gate and concession money, they are now charging each athlete, including band members, a $35 fee to participate. This is in addition to the hundreds of dollars in fees these children have paid to go to camp, get their gear, etc. The county’s general funds are down so they are taking from the students to make up for it. This is the same county that illegally took the $1,500 bonus to teachers that the federal government paid for and clearly stated it was not to go to the general fund. It is unfair, especially in low-income areas where parents are already struggling to make a way for their kids to participate. And don’t forget, these programs often results in millions of dollars in scholarships for these students, some of whom would not go to college without them. Greedy adults.

Solutions

August 28th, 2012
3:03 pm

I will not pay to help your child earn an athletic scholarship to college!

Rodney

August 28th, 2012
3:05 pm

Consistently winning high school sports programs-especially football–are all about the money. The top teams in each classification are well funded by booster clubs and their well heeled parents. It takes money–and lots of it–to develop a championship caliber football teams that are contneders every year. $1MM+ annual budgets are not unheard of.

H.S. sports have become a smaller version of college $port$.

Want to play–got to pay. Taxpayers are tapped out.

Ernest

August 28th, 2012
3:05 pm

Not to redirect the focus of this topic, I recently paid academic fees for my High School children. Specifically it was for access to an online science supplement. Another child paid a fee for additional materials for a photography class (which I can understand as it is extra curricular).

I had a philosophical issue with the fees to support the science class (a curricular activity) however paid it because I am aware of the budget cuts and knew this access would enhance the learning process for the students. I’m talking a nominal fee of $11 – $22 dollars for the school year.

Sports fees are increasing at an alarming rate however students today have far more extras than we had. We only purchased our shoes (not necessarily matching fellow teammates) and personal gear. We drank water from a shared water hose not Gatorade. Injuries were usually handled by Coach saying ’shake it off and get back in there’. Many Board policies forbid excluding children that cannot pay for sport participation however how do you ensure the additional costs to run the program are covered?

Some guy

August 28th, 2012
3:24 pm

Eliminate sports in schools. Period. Let kids get those services outside of school.

I am a huge fan of athletics, but our schools should serve as centers of learning, not training camps. Athletics have grown to overshadow academics in too many schools. It’s time to separate the two. Problem solved.

banshee29

August 28th, 2012
3:39 pm

It is against the law for a school to assess a mandatory fee for school activities. If you press the people in charge, they will either a) back down quicly and succomb to your request or b) grab their ankles and hope they do not lose their job form the lawsuit.
Help out at the team car wash or sell some cookies to friends and neighbors. Or call a lawyer

Fred ™

August 28th, 2012
3:43 pm

Hall Mom

August 28th, 2012
1:59 pm

I note that the constitution says the state shall provide an “adequate” education, not ‘good’, not ‘college worthy’.
++++++++++++++++++++++

So adequate means being among the worst in the nation and you are ok with that?

A reader

August 28th, 2012
3:47 pm

The start of school means that I write a lot of checks to the school. There is the PTA, the “media package” (which is the only way to get a year book), regular locker fees, PE locker fees, parking fees, sports fees, club fees, booster club fee, and requests for donations for science to fund labs.

My daughter goes to a good school with some very excellent teachers. I pay each and every one of these fees without complaint because it ensures that the school continues to be good and to also ensure she has a good high school experience.

Destitute

August 28th, 2012
4:00 pm

If one wants to play, one has to pay. If he or she does not pay, then he or she gets no play. It’s real simple. It’s not fair for some to pay and not play and vice versa.

Bernie

August 28th, 2012
4:13 pm

Forget the RISE in Fees…Many of these Georgia Parents are going to be far more worried about the kids Healthcare coverage.

Thank-you Gov. Deal…where would all of those parents be without your caring attitude about their children’s healthcare coverage. NO Sports for you KIDS….You may Get hurt and your mom & Dad just cannot afford to have that happen right now. SO be careful!

Bernie

August 28th, 2012
4:19 pm

Solutions @ 2:41 pm – If you could do this for me. when you get ALL of that POWER that is coming your way. Make sure you stick a pin in the New $430 million dollar school GOLDEN Welfare Plan before of all of the money is spent. It could be used some place else better for the children of Georgia. Like Healthcare coverage! when they get sick!

Fred ™

August 28th, 2012
4:26 pm

If one wants to play, one has to pay. If he or she does not pay, then he or she gets no play. It’s real simple.

Whoopie. Taxpayer supported activities for the rich. How wonderful.

I think we ought to do that for food too. Come on you kids, if your parents are poor and can’t pay you don;t deserve to eat. It’s THAT simple.

I will trademark M

August 28th, 2012
4:48 pm

After watching the women on WSB-TV who are suppose to be teachers, griping about no pay raise, it’s easy to see why we are in the dumpster regarding education. Georgia has among the worst teachers in the nation, and the teachers union is a total failure. Sports in schools are no longer an issue. Get rid of the sports, fire the crap teachers and hire quality people.

Hillbilly D

August 28th, 2012
5:12 pm

I’ll admit to being hopelessly out of the loop on this (and way behind the times) but how in the world does it cost $2000 to play high school baseball? Where does the money go?

former coach

August 28th, 2012
5:31 pm

When I coached high school soccer, I was told that I couldn’t have a “don’t pay–don’t play” policy. So all I could do was nag my players to pay dues or participate in fundraisers. I did start the players who had paid, usually spotting the other teams a goal or two because it was often the case that my best players claimed they weren’t able to come up with the money even though they had the money for expensive cleats. Compared to what other schools were “charging” their athletes, what I asked for was ridiculously low–barely enough to cover basic expenses and not enough to build the program. One reason I quit coaching is because of my hatred of fundraisers. When I played high school soccer, I’m guessing that money for sports came from the county because we only had one fundraiser during my four years, and that was for a trip.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

August 28th, 2012
5:35 pm

How about band fees? cheerleading fees?

Momof12

August 28th, 2012
5:44 pm

My daughter plays varsity softball for a Cobb county school. It is $500 for her to play. Schools cannot make paying to play mandatory. It is not required but unfortunately needed. Our coach does not know who pays and who doesn’t. Only the booster club. Since we only have 24 players on JV and varsity we need the money to fund the program. There is simply not enough money to support athletics. Do I like t no, do I understand yes. I have served on the foundation and school council for high school and middle school. If you really want to understand the budgetary shortfalls. Serve on one of these committees. My pay has been cut 45% since 2009 so there’s not a lot extra. We pay because she loves the sport not because we are expecting a scholarship.

Lexi

August 28th, 2012
6:13 pm

What is bothersome about charging people who use goods and services for those goods and services?

Lots of property owners and renters pay property taxes, but those taxes do not begin to cover the public school educations of the children of those taxpayers. Those educations are heavily subsidized.

Pride and Joy

August 28th, 2012
6:16 pm

Teacher, if the student takes the bus it will cost the district more than $300 to ransport him. Parents who provide transporatoin for their kids should get a free parking pass because they are saving the district money.

Pride and Joy

August 28th, 2012
6:19 pm

Hall Mom, you definition of “adequate” is different from most.
An adequate high school education should prepare you for college.
adjective 1. as much or as good as necessary for some requirement or purpose; fully sufficient, suitable, or fit (often followed by to or for ):
fully sufficient.
Adequate doesn’t mean bottom of the barrel.

Pride and Joy

August 28th, 2012
6:21 pm

Judge Smails — I’ll bet fees for the football team aren’t that high.
$2,000 is robbery.

Pompano

August 28th, 2012
6:44 pm

The greatest Myth… that Public Schools are under-funded! These organizations have been showered with funds with nothing to show except bloated staffs and unhappy parents. The Public School Systems in many areas are nothing more than Job Corp programs.

School Nurses, Grief Counselors, Testing Coordinators – nothing but scope creep and the flushing of funds down the toilet. GCPS even “funds” positions at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

MA

August 28th, 2012
7:41 pm

My kids paid to be in the spring musicals.

seminole

August 28th, 2012
8:12 pm

Trademark M:
You’re welcome to apply for a teaching job any time you like. Oh wait, probably won’t since the pay is too low, huh?

A reader

August 28th, 2012
8:19 pm

Hillbilly D,
August 28th, 2012
5:12 pm

The money goes towards uniforms, paying the coaches, upkeep of the field, sometimes building seating, concession stands, bathrooms, and fences. School budgets have been stripped to the bare bones so teams are on there own for these things. I agree that $2000 is excessive, but I paid over $400 for my child to play softball. In addition the coaches mow the lawn on their own time and the parents and coaches perform a lot of the field maintenance with their own time and money. Public K-12 schools do not have big sponsors like Ted Turner and Arther Blank. The public schools do not charge over $100 a ticket to see a sporting event like the colleges. It takes many parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, and principals to make a public school great. And if you want your child to have a well rounded school experience, then as a parent you have to be willing to put in some time, effort, and money.

NWGA Teacher

August 28th, 2012
8:30 pm

Basic band fee: $200 (we own the instrument). In addition, the Band Boosters, made up of parent volunteers, raise funds for transportation to and from games (pay for the buses, drivers, insurance, gas, etc.). Due to rising costs, the annual band trip ($800+) is beyond our reach this year.

Tech Prof

August 28th, 2012
8:37 pm

Hall Mom writes, “I note that the constitution says the state shall provide an “adequate” education, not ‘good’, not ‘college worthy’. Using fees to support anything beyond adequate is, unfortunately, fair and efficient. ” Your comment should open a discussion about the definition of “adequate education”. In today’s society what is an adequate education? Are we preparing our youth for a future of prosperity, and the ability to solve serious problems facing our world? Selfishly, we should want extremely well-educated young people in our country since they will be the ones charged with taking care of us when we are old!

Tech Prof

August 28th, 2012
8:54 pm

Sports is really killing our country. In this fiscal climate no p-12 school should be spending money on sports and neither should most colleges and universities. Yes, in theory sports teaches all about being part of a team, being physically fit, etc., but in practice it seems to be about winning at all cost and big money.

Do you know that most college/university sports programs do NOT turn a profit? Check out http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/story/2012-05-14/ncaa-college-athletics-finances-database/54955804/1 and do the math (total revenue) – (total expenses) – (total subsidy). If you get a negative number, then that program is losing money.

Teacher

August 28th, 2012
9:49 pm

@Pride and Joy

Except the bus already stops near your house to pick up students in your neighborhood. Do you think that they make special trips to pick up your kid, jeez.

@dc

I would take the bus in heartbeat if I lived in the school district.

Dc

August 28th, 2012
10:11 pm

Yeah….youd wait outside for the bus no matter the weather. Then take the inevitable abuse dished out by bulies that make riding so miserable. And of course youd give up the chance to come in early for help, or stay late for activities….oh i forget, you are fine with a parent having to leave work early to pick up their child, since you are always off work well before 5.

David Hoffman

August 28th, 2012
10:19 pm

I will trademark M,
There are no teacher unions in Georgia. The state still stinks at public education policy and funding. I guess unions do not drag a state’s public education down. Maybe the lousy ignorant residents of the state, who vote ignorant politicians into office, are to blame.

bootney farnsworth

August 28th, 2012
10:31 pm

@ Dr. Craig

the system I do my volunteering in has seen a roughly 1/3 increase in band/cheerleading fees in the last two years. an additional 1/3 increase in anticipated next year.

I’m also hearing stories about cheerleaders having to make “donations” to the touchdown clubs of several of the big suburban schools. I don’t do anything with the sports groups, too clannish and too full of themselves so I don’t have direct source information

bootney farnsworth

August 28th, 2012
10:33 pm

@ Pomp

schools improperly funded, not necessarily underfunded.