Activity Fee Would Allow ETHS To Restore Funding To Cut Programs

Joyce Lee

By Joyce LeeThe Daily Northwestern

Almost two years after seeing their extracurricular activities lose funding, Evanston Township High School students might end up paying to bring them back.

The ETHS board is proposing an $85 participation fee to restore the athletic and extracurricular activities that were eliminated in the spring 2005 budget reductions. The program cuts, including diminished coaching stipends for all sports and the elimination of the spring play, amounted to about $271,000. The proposed fee would raise $173,000, the amount deemed necessary to reinstate all activities. Parents with two or more students enrolled at ETHS would pay $170.

Activities affected by the cuts included girls and boys basketball, track and intramural sports. Non-athletic programs affected included the ultimate frisbee and Shakespeare clubs. The marching band instructor and debate team assistant were among the adult staff members whose extracurricular positions were eliminated.

The board hopes the $85 fee will increase participation outside classes across the student body. For this reason, they opted against a pay-to-play system, which charges each student based on individual involvement in extracurricular activities.

“Charging by sports has been shown in Michigan to reduce the participation by at least 10 percent after the first year,” said Bill Stafford, ETHS chief financial officer. “We want more participation, not less.”

Under the board’s proposal, the total funding would come only from about two-thirds of the current student body; all students qualifying for free and reduced lunch would be exempt. According to the 2005 Illinois District Report Card, 32.5 percent of District 202’s approximately 3,100 students come from low-income families.

“This would help the low-income families, but it would put more of a burden on the other families,” said ETHS junior Amanda Ellison. “I think that everyone should pay a really small fee, or no one should pay.”

Some students oppose paying for programs they might not participate in.

“Making every student pay for that fee would be like making attending a club mandatory for graduation,” said ETHS junior Amanda Bartosiak.

Students such as Bartosiak and Ellison said they think financial support for their extracurricular activities could come from other sources, instead of their own pockets.

“(The board) should come up with another way to earn money, like fundraising,” Ellison said.

Student athletes also question how the funds will be used. With uniform and training equipment expenses, the $85 fee might be too costly.

“I have to spend at least $200 a season on equipment so that I can participate,” said senior Alexander Jamison Krug, a member of the ETHS lacrosse team. “Some sports should require a fee, but possibly that fee could also be used to provide some more equipment to the students as well.”

The school board will meet Jan. 22 to further discuss the participation fee proposal and the reactions they have received from parents.

“We are now receiving feedback on the proposed fee,” said Ross Friedman, ETHS school board president. “Generally the feedback is positive and pro-implementation. However, the jury is still out.”

Reach Joyce Lee at [email protected]