It was sad to see Frisco ISD vote to start charging students to participate in middle- and high-school sports.
Next school year, parents will have to shell out $100 for middle-schoolers and $200 for high-schoolers to play. It’s a one-time fee for all sports for the year. But if you have multiple kids who want to play, you’ll have to pony up the fee for each one. (The district isn’t the first to take this step; other districts include Highland Park, Coppell and Grapevine-Colleyville.)
What a shame to have the district’s funding shortfall land so squarely on the back of parents and students. Participation in sports has a real value in the public school experience. Students benefit from the hard work, confidence building and sense of belonging. Schools should do nothing to discourage that.
This decision underscores the challenges local districts — even fast-growing ones on the high end of the socicoeconomic spectrum — face under the state’s complex school education system. Frisco has felt a financial crunch from inadequate state funding and from voters who rejected a tax hike to help pay for day-to-day operations.
Here’s how we got here:
Frisco officials warned parents last year that painful decisions were coming after voters rejected a 13-cent tax ratification election to raise more money for operations. Four schools, newly built with bond money, won’t open next year. The district can’t afford to staff them.
Frisco ISD is also slated to lose $30 million from its budget after this year due to a line in the state’s byzantine funding formula that gave a handful districts additional money to offset a 2006 state mandate to compress tax rates. Lawmakers have failed to replace that money and did little fix the school funding system this session.
That’s why the district went looking for more savings and ways to raise money. In addition to the sports fees, Frisco also trimmed back some extracurricular programs — 25 percent from the high school dance teams and 10 percent from the high school musicals, for example.
Frisco insists that scholarships will be available for students who can’t afford the fees. It will be important to come up with fair criteria to decide who gets help.
But even beyond the affordability is the principle. These extracurriculars are a key part of the well-rounded public-school experience. Forcing students to pay to play threatens that balance. At some point, parents will say no more, and kids will be the losers.
Frisco ISD’s tax rate
The maintenance and operations part of Frisco ISD’s tax rate for the 2016-17 school year was lower, at $1.04 per $100 valuation, than surrounding districts. Allen and Celina were at $1.14. Plano, McKinney, Lovejoy, Melissa and Prosper were each at $1.17 per $100 valuation.
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