Our View: Pay for play: Athletic fees for high school students are too high

April 1, 2019

Kids in Lake Havasu City schools have to pay way too much to play sports. Athletes at the high school must pay $400 per year to play competitive sports, while middle-schoolers pay $200. And that won’t be changing anytime soon, despite the repeated generosity of Havasu taxpayers.

The Lake Havasu school board voted last month to retain the sports fees for the upcoming school year, citing the high costs of travel as the primary reason the fees are needed. Defending the board’s decision, board president Kathy Cox said the district was in the same situation as it was before the budget override was passed in 2016. She pointed out that the board previously reduced the fees from $800 the year before, but she said the district “just had to absorb those costs.” With respect to Cox, the district didn’t absorb anything. Taxpayers did — and they did it with a few expectations.

Havasu residents voted for both a school bond and a budget override in 2016 to ensure schools are properly funded.

And that extra cash certainly made a big difference when it comes to school facilities and teacher pay. Now it’s time to address those sports fees.

Havasu’s fees are much higher than comparable districts, and they’re unfair to students. It’s not fair that a cross country athlete pays the same fee as a football player, who requires much more safety equipment and travels a lot more. Some fee is probably necessary, but they should be a fraction of what students are currently charged — and they should be based on the needs of each program.

Creative thinking, obviously, is required. The district was able to adjust to stadium costs that were more than five times the projected budget, so the claim that the district can’t absorb the costs is simply disingenuous. There are very smart people at the helm of this district. This is simply a matter of priorities.

Think creatively. If travel is the problem, push for league realignments that minimize road time. Our kids spend too much time traveling to Phoenix, anyway.

Havasu has shown time and time again that it can find solutions in difficult places. Let’s do that again so that we’re not placing unnecessary burdens on high school students.

— Today’s News-Herald