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South Valley Journal

Students could be paying less for extracurricular activities next year

Aug 06, 2019 02:02PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students from Herriman High School travel to Anaheim for national FCCLA club competition. (Photo courtesy Jana Pendleton/Herriman High School)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

What price can you put on high school extracurricular activities? The price can be pretty high if your student participates in a club or team that has expensive gear (cheerleading) or travels a lot (choir). And what if your child wants to participate in several activities?

Parents have been complaining about school activity fees for years. Tamra Dayley, of the Utah State Board of Education auditing department, said a recent USBE audit found school fees have been on the rise in recent years, outpacing inflation and student enrollment, while the number of fee waivers has declined. 

Additionally, a legislative audit of secondary school fees last September found evidence of widespread violations of Utah Code in regards to activity fees and accessibility. The report showed problems with hidden fees (a cheerleading fee was listed at $1,775 but students ended up paying $2,500), students being required to purchase items listed as optional (team spirit packs and camps), and waivers not being offered to qualified students. 

In response to the findings, USBE is working to bring school districts into compliance with the Utah Administrative Rule and the recently passed house bill 250, which ensures that public school system fees do not create a barrier to full participation for any student, regardless of their financial circumstances.

By next year, USBE will require schools to publish accurate school fees, set caps on total fees a single student can be asked to pay and implement corrective action for noncompliance to these rules, many which have been in effect for decades but have been misunderstood. New regulations will also prohibit individual fundraising requirements for students to supplement activity fees.

Dayley said, ultimately, the goal is to make activities—curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular—accessible for all students through appropriate fees and waiver eligibility. 

“Every student should be able to participate fully in their education experience, regardless of their social-economic situation,” said Dayley.

While fees for participation in clubs and teams can be costly, many parents and club advisers agree the benefits are priceless.

Herriman High School’s FCCLA club adviser Jana Pendleton believes extracurricular activities provide a place for kids to belong and skills they will carry into their post-high school lives. Her club provides service, entrepreneurial and social opportunities throughout the year that help students gain new skills and to get to know more of their peers. 

“By having this club, it gives them a place to go and have those fun experiences and meet people and then have the opportunity to not only compete but also to travel,” she said.

Twenty-three students from HHS attended the national FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) competition held in Anaheim, California, in July. Pendleton said club competitions build personal self-esteem for students by validating their abilities.

“They can be recognized for what they’ve done, for all the hard work they’ve put into it,” said Pendleton. “It makes them feel better about themselves, and then they know they can do something. They try harder and do more, and they keep going and creating rather than someone who does something, and then no one ever notices.”

All 23 students received helpful feedback from judges and earned a medal for their project, most of which began as a class assignment in one of the many FCCLA classes offered at HHS. At FCCLA competitions, students compete in one of 36 events including fashion design, interior design, early childhood, job interviews and career exploration. Top performers win scholarships.

Because the national competition, which is held in a different city each year, is such a great opportunity for students, Pendleton said she doesn’t ever want a student to not be able to go because of lack of finances. The school’s FCCLA department, Utah FCCLA, Jordan District and local sponsors help students cover the associated costs. 

“They work so hard; they deserve to be able to go and compete on a national level,” she said.

For more information on school fees, see here