This week’s TAB article, User fees generate $2.4M, ended with a sentence that causes concern:
High school student activities are expected to generate $40,000, or 42 percent more than last year. School officials had expected to generate twice as much for student activities, but some clubs have opted not to meet because of the new fees.
Does this mean that half of the high-school students who were involved in these activities before the new fees were imposed are now no longer active in them? (Families pay one fee per student per year, not per activity.) If so, that would be a chilling decline in high school activities for a gain of $40,000 in fee revenue.
Yes, there are waivers available in the case of financial hardship, but to qualify for one, a family needs to know about it and needs to turn over its Federal tax return to the Ed Center. In any case, it seems that a 50% drop extends well beyond the number of families that may qualify for waivers.
Under the new fee structure, student-government representatives are asked to pay to represent their peers. Students in charitable organizations pay the city before raising funds for good causes. Science and robotics teams pay these fees in addition to the substantial amounts they pay for equipment, materials, and tournament registrations.
I can understand the arguments that say these fees are good because they raise needed revenue and they place the cost burden of student activities on the families that derive the benefit. But I hope we can review these fees in light of their overall impact. Are they really cutting participation in half? Here are the current lists of activities at North and South. Which clubs and activities are now “opting not to meet”? Which others have lower enrollment? Which ones have dropped off the list? (In 2011, South listed 71 clubs; it now lists 43.)