School board considers ‘pay to participate’ fee structure for extracurriculars

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 9:04 am

Extracurricular activities fees might be implemented as a means of sparing teacher positions from budget cuts.

The Hanover School Board is looking at the option, which was introduced by Mechanicsville member Glenn Millican during recent budget work sessions.

Under a proposed scenario, student athletes would be asked to pay a fee to participate in athletics programs in Hanover County.

On Jan. 31, staff reported that approximately $939,000 in taxpayer funding goes toward middle and high school athletics. Ticket sales and the boosters programs cover the rest of the operating costs.

Board members are considering what they’re calling a “pay to participate” scenario—charging students a fee to get involved in sports teams. There are roughly 4,000 middle and high school students participating in extracurricular athletics.

Millican suggested a fee in the $75 to $100 range. Board member John Axselle of Beaverdam noted it would need to reach nearly $200 per player to cover the full $939,000 general fund expenditures.

Axselle also asked for a breakdown of costs associated with other extracurricular activities—such as marching band, show choir, and theatre.

“If I’m going to turn around and charge for athletics, I’m going to also charge for the arts,” he said.

The arts are a bit more complicated, as some of those activities are linked with a class. Most marching band participants, for example, are enrolled in a band course.

“To further muddy the water, you have to also look at what people are already paying to participate in these elective courses,” Chickahominy board member Bob Hundley said.

“When the band hits the field on Friday nights along with the football team, it’s no longer a class. It’s extracurricular. … Just like there is to put the football team on the field, there’s a cost associated to put that band on the field,” Axselle said.

Axselle added that he didn’t like suggesting any fees.

“I don’t like any of this. I really don’t. … I hate fees. I despise them,” he said.

“To me, it is a part of a well-rounded education, both the arts and the athletics. You can have strictly academia and you’re going to lose,” Axselle said.

The $188.7 million Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget proposed by Dr. Jamelle Wilson, superintendent, closes an anticipated $5.4 million funding gap through several measures, including the elimination of 12 teaching positions at the elementary level and 12 at the high school level.

The budget also proposes a restructuring of the high school bell schedule. The current seven class periods would increase to eight, with teachers taking on six instructional blocks. They currently teach five.

Wilson said the timing of the latter recommendation “is not ideal, because it blends budget needs with administrative or instructional decisions.”

If this wasn’t the fifth consecutive year of budget challenges, staff would have made this recommendation “through a more detailed process and with a different timeline,” Wilson said.

The recommendation comes in response to increased graduation requirements, recommendations made during a recent efficiency review, and continued budget challenges.

“The details of that revised high school schedule have yet to be completed. As a result, the definition of what constitutes a sixth class, whether that’s an additional section, study block, tutorial, or et cetera, has not been determined,” Wilson noted.

She recommended that the board consider the reduction of 12 high school teaching positions and the sixth class section as two separate matters.

Staff would engage a focus group to help define what that sixth high school class section might look like “to ensure greater access to courses for students and to ensure that high school teacher schedules maximize time with students,” Wilson said.

Board members agreed that those were two separate issues, though they were interested in finding ways to avoid eliminating the teaching positions.

“We are coming out a depression. We need to start repairing the damage that we have done since 2007, and we need to get more teachers in the classroom,” Millican said.

To provide a starting point, he suggested keeping the 12 high school positions and adding another 16 to the overall system. These 28 positions would cost $1.68 million, he estimated.

“I think the economy is improving at a rapid enough rate now that we have cleared some hurdles, and I’d like to see us start back in the classroom with teachers as fast as possible. …

“I know what the system was, and I want that system back as soon as possible,” Millican said.

He added that the business model may need to change to reflect current needs, but he wants to ensure the quality of instruction.

Board chair Ann Gladstone of South Anna commented, “I also would like to see more teachers in our classrooms rather than less. I think that’s universal across this board.”

She added she’d at least like to preserve the 12 positions slated for reduction, but she understood the need to keep the budget balanced.

Millican recommended creating a supplemental budget, so if any additional funding becomes available, a plan will be in place.

“To delay action is going to damage our brand,” he said. “The way you support that brand is by providing the assets—in this case the faculty in the classroom. I don’t want to risk this brand.”



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