Pay to play?

Members of Francis Howell School District form an activities task force in hopes to find alternative ways to generate funds for the district


Sophomore Trent Kreienheder soars over the bar at track meet. Task force will be discussing activity fees that sports and clubs might be charged

According to student athlete Makenzie Schierding, a junior involved in track and field, girls basketball and many clubs, and Activities Director Scott harris a new Activities Task Force is being formed, and has held one meeting and plans to meet again. The goal of the task force, is to make sure the district can generate funds, to prevent further cuts.

“Recent years, or this year, the tax [levy] didn’t pass so we are on budget cuts and they’ve been cutting teacher positions and everything, so like it’s a council that gets together like the activity directors picked it,” Schierding said. “It’s Howell, Howell Central, and Howell North, and the AD’s at each school picked one student, and parents and different people from the community from different levels to like discuss ‘pay- to-play.’”

Schierding explains this pay-to-play concept as the need to pay money in order to play sports or to be a part of an activity, and within the next few meetings discuss whether or not to do it and if it is implemented, how it will look.

“I think we have a few more [meetings] like at the meetings we just talk about if should we do it, if we do how so, if we do how much and what are the benefits that’s just pretty much what it’s about,” Schierding said. “It’s trying to like keep from taking any more things away from the kids, that’s what they talked about like they don’t want to take anything else from the students.”

As far as when this new activities fees could be introduced, the answer is still unknown. However, Schierding believes it will be put into effect sooner rather than later, given the circumstances and the district’s budget situation.

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“I’m thinking sooner rather than later, so like as anything like next year or the year after is what they’re talking about, just because  they are so low on money,” Schierding said.

Schierding also thinks due to the severity of the situation, and the need for budget help, the activity fee seems to be one of the only options left.

“I think that depends on how well it works [for how long we keep it] if participation declines rapidly then like they probably won’t do it but this is like their only option just because if not they are going to have to start cutting teachers and like bigger classes,” Schierding said. “I think it just goes back to money this school district is so low on money and it’s like the only way.”

Concerning the district’s budget situation Mr. Harris is in agreement with Schierding in that it is unfavorable. As the district faces more and more budget cuts over the years, Harris finds that this new possibility could be essential to preventing further cuts.

“We have made quite a few cuts over the last few years. About 27% of the activities budget has been cut we have lost club sponsors, we have lost coaches for some sports, we have seen a reduction in the freshman schedules.We have had a lot of cuts in the past 5 years and we are hoping to avoid any further cuts,” Harris said. “So what a small activity fee could do is off set any of those [cuts] so instead of doing any of those we charge a small fee [and] we could then keep the programs as they are existing without making additional cuts.”

In order to discuss and ponder the possibility of this fee in a proper and fair way, the task force committee is made up of team coaches, club and group activities sponsors, student participants, district administration and parents to allow for multiple viewpoints and opinions.

“We tried to pick a variety of all the committees, they want the entire District represented. From the North side of the District from the South side of the District and from the Central they took a few from each,” Harris said.

As far as how much the fee will charge, and what activities the fee will be applied to Harris says this is still unknown, but should be figured out within the next few meetings amongst the task force. The next meeting is scheduled to take place next Wednesday night.

“The first meeting was to look at the area school districts that are currently doing this and their fees. I think there are five districts in the St. Louis area that are already doing this, and their fees range from 35 dollars up to 100 dollars,” Harris said. “The current task force did not discuss a number it was more gathering information discussing what districts do it and why it might be a possibility for us.”

Though the official number has not been finalized, Harris believes in next weeks meeting logistics will be discussed and further developed, solidifying the plan of action.

“At the meeting next week, I think it will be more in depth I think we will talk about putting a number to that and do we want to charge X amount of dollars or is that too much or is that too little… We will look at the number of participants we will see what that number is and that they generate an income.” Harris said. “There is also a discussion [about] is it all sports and activities, is it just sports, is it just MSHAA-which is the government sports activities. There is a lot of discussion along those lines about who do you target; they are also talking about doing it at the middle school level and elementary level, which are what some neighboring school districts do.”

Once the basics of the plan are finalized, the next step towards implementation is proposing the idea to the Board of Education, according to Harris. While the task force is able to meet, and plan, and organize, the ultimate decision comes from the Board.

“Our district is going to need to pass a tax levy, it has failed twice now at a different amount each time … the task force is maybe thinking about putting this in place until a tax levy is put in place and you never now that is always the Board of Education makes those decisions,” Harris said. “[The Board of Education] have a lot of things to consider when making those decisions … some districts will keep [the fee] in place until a tax levy is in place and then do away with it, and some have decided to keep [the fee] even after a tax levy is passed to collect additional funds… The committee is going to make a recommendation before school lets out then the board can decide if they want to implement it next year moving forward.”