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Posts Tagged ‘Southern California

The war on school sports fees — can it really be won?

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A common way for school districts to get their costs covered when the local tax base won’t (or can’t) pony up for them is to charge fees, a tack particularly all the rage for school sports. However, the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California, being the glorious freedom fighters or meddling commies they are (I seek to represent both sides), is suing the state, saying the fees violate California’s constitution, which states that public education is free.

The ACLU’s official video on the scourage of school fees.

Generally, most state constitutions have wording similar to California’s, yet we parents dutifully write checks for book fees, IDs, gym uniforms and, depending on where you live, participation fees for extracurricular activities. I would be more outraged, except what I have to pay for four kids still doesn’t come close to all the fees I had to pay sending my kids to Catholic school, so I’m still feeling giddy.

However, the freedom fighters’/meddling commies’ lawsuit does bring up an interesting point. Is it right for a school district to charge kids to play sports at a public school?

How you answer that depends on whether you believe extracurricular activities are an integral part of the school experience. I say they are. My 13-year-old, despite the experience of getting cut from a few teams, has connected to his junior high as more than just a place to learn algebra thanks to after-school activities that include theater, choir, podcasting club, band, strategy club (chess and role-playing games), gym setup (for Friday night activities) and stuff I’m probably leaving out.

The curriculum makes for a good school; the extracurriculars makes for a school to which students feel a real attachment. People who grump that school is only a place where students learn the basics are missing that it’s the other stuff that turns a drone into a thinking, feeling person.

Granted, the activities my oldest son is in are hardly the priciest out there. For example, none of them requires pads, helmets, assistant coaches, a marching band, a grounds crew and grounds, lighting and bus rides.

On top of that, and this is where the ACLU has a point beyond the constituional question, is that all these fees deny a true meritocracy in public schools. If you can’t afford the fee, you can’t play football. You can’t be in the band. You can’t be in strategy club. Heck, you can’t even get a science workbook.

However, even if the ACLU wins, it doesn’t answer the questions of how schools are going to make up that lost fee money. As, oh, every school district in the state of New Jersey has noticed, taxpayers aren’t concerned about your sob stories of having no school supplies. Suck it up, kids. Don’t you understand taxes are high, the economy sucks, and your union-bloated teachers are snorting eraser dust with $100 bills? (Hey, eraser dust is hard to get, now that everyone is using whiteboards and computers.)

The sad fact is, if the ACLU wins, the result likely is that California schools start chopping, and the families who were already spending big bucks on travel teams and just placating the prep team with their childrens’ presence will just double down on the travel teams, while other kids are left with bupkus. Hopefully, the podcasting club will survive.

Written by rkcookjr

September 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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