House Bill 1660 (HB 1660) is a well-intentioned bill, aimed at creating equity for all students and families. However, the processes behind it have created large headaches for smaller schools such as Waterville and will have big implications in funding for school athletics and other activities.
The bill requires that schools have processes in place to determine who is low income among students and families and to offer them free and reduced fees for any extracurricular activity. This includes the Associated Student Body (ASB) fees to play sports and admission costs to sporting events for both students and their families. It is a law that at its heart is well-meaning according to Superintendent Tabatha Mires.
“The intent is good. It’s to create equity for all kids and families,” states Mires.
The problem she says is that to pay somebody to make the processes and determine who is low income would be too costly. Plus, she points out the district does not feel comfortable asking families for financial records to determine whether they are low income.
“For a small school like ours, the challenge of trying to verify income status and manage a fee schedule costs more than we can make. The larger issue is that we also have to have a system in place for admission for families and verifying family income is a road that we’re not really comfortable going down,” says Mrs. Mires.
Therefore Waterville, like many other schools throughout the state, have elected to not charge ASB fees or admission to any sporting event.
The downside to this is the money made through admission fees at sporting events will no longer be available. This income was used to purchase equipment and uniforms for the high school’s sports teams along with money allotted to dances and other student activities. Mires says for the short term, the school is using some of its general funds to take care of the need, but this is not a long-term solution as the general funds does not have enough reserves to sustain this work around.
Instead of charging admissions at all high school home games, Superintendent Mires says donation jars will be put out. She hopes that anybody who is financially able will donate the money that they would have paid in admission fees to help sustain both the financial needs for high school sports along with all other activities that the ASB funds would have covered.
“We want people to understand that if they can afford to pay the cost of admission, we’d love for them to do so,” said Mires.
While the well-intended HB 1660 has created headaches for Waterville and other smaller schools, the hope is that local fans who attend our high school sporting events and who are financially able, will step up and donate what they would have been charged to attend the games so that our community’s students will continue to have ample extra-curricular activities through their high school year.