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Higher sports fees in Janesville schools?

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 26, 2008
— Lori Stottler knows Janesville loves its high school sports.

Any doubt was removed in recent days as Stottler, a Janesville School Board member, fielded call after call in opposition to her proposal to increase school sports fees.


The school board is expected to take up Stottler’s proposal tonight. Currently, all Craig and Parker high school players are assessed a $50 fee per sport.


Stottler’s plan calls for charging a $50 fee to middle school athletes for the first time.


And at the high schools, she would increase fees to $100, $200 or $300 for the 12 sports that cost the district more than $500 per athlete.


Boys hockey, for example, cost the district $915 per player in 2005-06. Stottler would charge hockey players $300. But players in Parker High School softball, which cost $396 per player, would pay the $50 fee.


Stottler proposes charging fees of:


-- $300 for Craig girls golf, Parker girls golf, Craig girls gymnastics, Craig/Parker girls co-op hockey and Craig/Parker boys co-op hockey.


-- $200 for Parker girls basketball, Craig boys basketball, Parker boys basketball, Parker girls gymnastics.


-- $100 for Craig girls basketball, Craig boys swim and Parker girls swim.


Other high school sports would carry a $50 fee.


Under Stottler’s plan, athletes in sports that generate revenue would pay less because the revenue offsets costs.


Stottler estimates the new fees would generate about $51,000 from high school sports and another $34,000 from the middle schools, for a total of $85,000.


Board member Tim Cullen came out strongly against Stottler’s plan when she first proposed it in April.


Cullen said at the time that parents who couldn’t afford the higher fees would push their children into the cheaper sports, dividing city residents in an unprecedented way.


Stottler doesn’t believe her plan would create two classes of athletes. She said families make kitchen-table decisions all the time about where to spend their money.


She also points out that many school districts have charged more for their high-cost sports for some time.


And for families who can’t afford it, the district would continue to waive the fee.


Stottler said she knows what it is like to live on a limited income, something she did as a child. On the other hand, she doesn’t want to pile rising school costs on taxpayers.


“I love athletics, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the retired taxpayer down the street should have to pay for it,” Stottler said. “I don’t think they should have to pay for my son’s guitar lessons, either.”


Stottler believes a majority of the board will oppose her plan. She believes some board members would support an alternative of raising the fee for all high school sports.


Stottler said she would vote against an across-the-board fee hike, calling it unfair to students in low-cost sports.


An additional $85,000 in revenue may not sound like much compared with a proposed $111 million operating budget for this school year, but Stottler said the board needs to start taking steps to control a budget that could spiral out of control.


Stottler said she’d much rather get more money to cover the cost of federally mandated programs for students with disabilities.


Stottler said she believes in special education, but she points out that the federal government pays about 17 percent of the cost, after promising years ago to fund 40 percent.


But to get more funding for special education, Congress or the state Legislature, not the school board, needs to act, Stottler said.


“I’m not going to win this battle anyway,” Stottler said of sports fees, “but I certainly hope that together we can win the war over funding.”


ATHLETICS FEES
Existing: The Janesville School District began charging a $50 fee for high school sports participation in fall 2006. The fee includes an annual maximum charge of $150 per student and $500 per family. Families that can’t afford the fee are granted waivers. The fee raises about $90,000 a year.
Proposed: School board member Lori Stottler proposes imposing the $50 fee on middle school sports and increasing the fee for certain high school sports. Stottler divided high school sports into those that cost the district more than $600 per player and those that cost less. Based on participation and costs in 2005-06, the fee for higher-cost sports would be:

-- $300—Craig and Parker girls golf; Craig gymnastics; girls and boys hockey.


-- $200—Parker girls basketball; Craig and Parker boys basketball; Parker gymnastics.


-- $100—Craig girls basketball, Craig boys swimming, Parker girls swimming.


The higher fees would be imposed only on varsity and junior varsity players. All other high school sports would continue with the $50 fee.


Under Stottler’s plan, athletes in sports that generate revenue would pay less because the revenue offsets costs.


Debate: Janesville School Board President DuWayne Severson said the board would likely discuss and possibly vote on the issue during its budget discussions when the board meets tonight. It is possible but unlikely that fees would change for the sports season that has already begun and more likely it would begin in fall 2009, Severson said. The board meets at 7 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.

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