PUBLISHED: 4:45 PM on Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Pay to play
Cost of extracurricular activities continue to add up for students, parents and community
The cost of the high school experience can add up if that time means being involved in extracurricular activities and sports.

While the Juneau School District sanctions some funding for activities, the majority of money used for extracurricular activities come from community and booster club fund-raising, said Sandi Wagner, district activities director.

Of the activities in the high school, eight sports are funded completely from outside funds not provided by the district. Those are baseball, football cheerleading, football, hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer, softball and tennis. The high school spring musical director is paid using other district funds not included in the activities budget.

The first program to use outsourcing for activities was the Juneau Douglas High School football team, Wagner said.

"They wanted to be sanctioned and it was at a time when programs were being dropped," Wagner said. "They knew up front that if they came to the board they had to fund it all themselves."

The school district received $218,000 this year from the City and Borough of Juneau, said Juneau School District superintendent Peggy Cowan. She said she expects CJB to give $200,000 next year. The district pays about $174,000, she said. That money goes to travel in Southeast Alaska for activities and some coach stipends, Cowan said. Wagner said cost of travel for activities in the southeast region alone is more than $160,000. She said the cost is subsidized using fund-raising. All other costs, such as uniforms, equipment and other materials, are paid for through fund-raising.

"Everybody has to fund-raise," Wagner said. "Those activities that are popular and there is a passion for in the community have booster clubs."

Wagner said that there are pros and cons to activities being funded by the district or rely on outsourcing. She said that while activities that receive money from the district benefit, they are limited to the types of fund-raising they can do. Activities and organizations that use outsourcing are not limited to what types of fund-raisers they hold.

"Each group fund-raises their own money to keep programs going. Nothing is paid for completely," Wagner said.

Activities that use outsourcing are required to fund-raise to pay for all expenses, such as rink time for hockey, coaches' salaries and equipment. Other expenses for teams include paying for travel to bring teams to Juneau to compete. Cowan said "traditional activities," including non-athletics such as band, dance and choir, use fund-raising to pay for any expenses outside of the classroom. Members of the JDHS band who went to New York City for a March performance were required to raise their own funds for the trip, she said.

To help with rising costs, some sports require dues and fund-raising efforts. Wagner said students pay dues from $20-100 a year to participate in activities, plus fund-raising. She said this causes the programs to lose students who would otherwise participate in athletics.

"There's no question that we lose kids. It's much easier for a kid whose parents care and have the money, and it's elitist to some extent," Wagner said. "Do we have any other option at this point? No, we don't. We try hard, but we do have a lot of kids who just don't turn out, and when you get to the heart of it, it's a money issue. I don't have an answer for it."

Wagner said some students may receive scholarship assistance to participate in activities, but those funds also are limited.

"It's going to get worse," Wagner said.

Cowan said fund-raising for activities in Juneau schools is about $1.5 million.

"It's not that we don't pay anything, but the community pays a whole lot," said Peggy Cowan, Juneau School District superintendent.

Wagner said she hopes community support for school activities continues with the rise in what is needed.

"That's a huge amount for the community to put into the high school and the kids. It shows you how important it is," Wagner said.

Funds available for activities will be limited in the future as school financing continues to decrease, Cowan said.

"Tight budgets have caused us to eliminate how much we give in a lot of areas. There are places where we haven't reduced but we can't increase either," Cowan said. "We don't not fund these programs because they're not important. With the decreasing budget, it's forced us to cut in every area."

Cowan said other communities, such as Valdez, consult with her about how the Juneau District funds and manages activities.

"I'm awed by the support of this community. This community supports school activities and students more than any I've seen," Cowan said.