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MailTribune.com
  • Our Opinion: Spread the wealth

    Ending pay-to-play fees for athletics is great; do the same for other activities
  • A proposal from the Medford School District Budget Committee that would eliminate "pay-to-play" fees for athletics in next year's budget would take a burden off student athletes and their families, and should be approved. But it doesn't go far enough.
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  • A proposal from the Medford School District Budget Committee that would eliminate "pay-to-play" fees for athletics in next year's budget would take a burden off student athletes and their families, and should be approved. But it doesn't go far enough.
    Athletes are not the only students who must pay fees to participate in after-school activities. Other programs sanctioned by the Oregon School Activities Association include drama productions and speech and debate competitions. Students who want to take part in those activities must pay a $50 fee.
    The District Budget Committee earlier this month approved the proposed budget for 2014-15, in the process increasing athletic program funding by about $220,000. That increase, which would come from district reserves, would eliminate the fees students now pay to participate in athletics.
    The fees were adopted 10 years ago in the face of declining state funding for K-12 education. High school athletes pay $150 per sport with a $300 cap, while middle school athletes pay $75 per sport.
    Dennis Murphy, the athletic director at South Medford High School, says the district has never turned away a student who wanted to play but could not afford the fee. That's as it should be, but doesn't address the possibility that some students never asked to play out of embarrassment or fear that they would be turned away.
    Murphy expressed concern that the fees might have to be reinstated in future years if revenues dip again. He suggested reducing them but not eliminating them entirely.
    That's a decision the School Board will have to make. The board will take public comments on the proposed budget in its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the District Education Center Board Room, 815 S. Oakdale Ave.
    Athletic fees are a burden even to families who can afford to pay them, and it makes sense to eliminate them if the district has the resources. Certainly $200,000 won't make much of a dent in a reserve fund of $10.4 million.
    But it makes no sense to eliminate fees for athletics while still charging for non-athletic activities such as debate and drama. Dropping the fees is a good idea; dropping them for all after-school activities is the right idea.
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