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Drop pay-to-play fees

The Phoenix-Talent School District is right to do away with pay-to-play participation fees for extracurricular activities. Other local districts should do the same.

The Phoenix-Talent School Board’s unanimous decision Aug. 8 to eliminate the fees will cost the district some money — it collected $35,000 last year — but that’s a small price to pay for the benefit to struggling families. The district’s athletic director said it’s an amount the district can afford.

Schools nationwide have turned to participation fees to compensate for shrinking budgets. Many provide sliding scales for families who can’t afford the full fee. The Medford district has money in scholarship funds to help low-income students.

That still represents a stigma that may discourage students from pursuing sports or music. A national poll found lower-income families were less likely to have a teen playing sports than more affluent families.

What’s the biggest problem facing public education in Oregon? Low graduation rates. What are some of the best ways to keep students showing up and working toward graduation? Sports and music programs.

Studies show students in music do better in academics, and students in athletics earn higher grades, graduate at a higher rate and are less likely to drop out.

So it makes sense to do everything possible to offer every child the opportunity to participate in activities that are likely to keep them in school.

That means removing barriers that treat students differently based on family income. The relatively small amount it takes to eliminate pay-to-play fees is money well spent.