Editorial: Athletics programs crucial in student education

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association have recently released a survey noting unwelcoming news for students and parents involved in athletic activities in Pennsylvania school districts.

The survey, released on Nov. 20, cites that the percentage of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts reporting after-school activities fees grew from 13 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2013. These fees were primarily due to sports programs. Moreover, the size of the fees has grown, as well: In 2010, the average activity fee per school was between $5 and $50; in 2012, the fee rose to $65; in 2013, the fee stands at $80.

This trend seems to be affecting the most vulnerable demographic: grade school students. Due to the rising costs of equipment and other related costs, students seem to endure the brunt of such hikes. To continue providing every student with the right to an affordable education, school districts need to find better cost-sharing methods, excluding students and their families.

“The rising cost to athletes and their families is concerning,” said Todd Hosterman, senior research associate with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and author of the study, in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Looking at the maximum reported $200 per student, per activity fee,” Hosterman said, the average student who participated in three sports, for instance, would “pay $600 a year.”

A well-rounded education cannot simply be acquired within the walls of an institution. It’s also about the lessons and activities schools offer students outside academia that contribute to each student’s ability to gain key experiences that are crucial in forming a well-rounded individual.

To ensure students aren’t the sole contributors to the cost hikes that extracurricular activities, namely sports, face, athletic departments and school districts need to find alternative streams of funding to better share the weight of these costs.

For one, booster clubs and alumni associations are an obvious and initial source of funding school districts can pursue to subsidize some costs associated with playing sports. Some high school sports don’t have the same monetary base that others, such as football and basketball, do. Contributing more money to a school’s athletics department will increase the chance that the cost of participating in sports will decrease across the board.

Secondly, school districts should call upon state officials and legislators in Pennsylvania to allocate more funding to these activities. School districts in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities won’t have the same resources as a district in a wealthier area, so to solve such a challenge, state legislators should set aside some funding for schools’ athletic departments. The cost burden the state government will take will be far from exorbitant when compared to the yearly expenditures.

Districts surely cannot afford to fund every activity, but students should not be the sole proprietor to make up the difference. Alternative measures should be pursued to ensure districts can provide a comprehensive education to their students.

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