Yesterday's post on referee and judge pay provoked a discussion of "pay to play," charging students fees to participate in extracurricular activities. HB 1198 would do just that. This bill was on last Friday's House Education committee agenda, but it got deferred to tomorrow (Wednesday).
Now note that this bill does not require fees for participation; it actually increases local control, allowing school boards to impose fees if they see fit. It is also limited to "any interscholastic activity for which no academic credit is earned." It occurs to me that debaters might not be subject to such fees, since some schools (quite rightly, given the semester's worth of speeches the typical debater makes in one weekend) make competition in speech contests part of the requirements for earning credit in debate or speech classes.
A few of my readers have argued that all extracurriculars should be off budget, supported entirely by non-school clubs (as in Europe). I don't know if I could go so far. Extracurricular activities have a fair amount of educational value (yes, even football). I don't like the idea of creating fees that could price some kids out of extra-curricular activities. But schools manage to set up free/reduced lunch prices; it wouldn't be hard to establish a similar program for activity participation fees.
There are no free lunches: balls and pads and debate briefcases cost money. The question HB 1198 poses: should immediate users of those items pay a higher proportion of the costs, or do those activities provide a public benefit that we all should support equally with our tax dollars? Let's hear our man on House Education, Rep. Mitch Fargen (D-8/Flandreau), lead that discussion in committee tomorrow.
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