Having read the Bulletin’s story on possible further budget cuts in Johnson County schools, I’m writing to express opposition to the idea of instituting a “pay-to-play activities system.” District business manager Tom Sarvey was quoted as saying that he’d been asked to explore such a system by “a couple of (school) board members” and that he’d calculated what the district would receive if each student participating in an activity was required to pay $50 per activity to take part. The activities listed in the proposed fee to participate system include sports, agriculture, theater, student council and “music in Kaycee.” That last is particularly unsettling — music students in Kaycee would pay to take part but in Buffalo they would not? The $50 would be charged for each activity so a student who was in band, acted in a play, ran cross-country and was a student council member would pay an additional $200 to attend public school.
Mr. Sarvey estimated that the system would bring in $50,500.00.--“…roughly 4% of the overall activity cost.” And this is only if participation in activities remained at the same level as before the fee was instituted.
Instituting this fee would do little to solve the district’s budget problems. But it would increase inequality. The public schools are one of the great forces to protect and nurture democracy and democratic values. They offer equal opportunity to all regardless of ability to pay. Every student is offered the best education we can provide as a community. If we need to tighten our belts, we must do so together and in equal measure.
I hope we will look elsewhere either to cut the school budgets or to develop new revenue sources to support free and equal education for every child and young person in our community.