The ElyTimes

Several concerned citizens reached out to The Ely Times regarding a issue with sports fees for students in Middle School sports.

The concern is that a child who attends the Learning Bridge Charter School who wants to participate in the middle school sports has to pay a much higher fee than a child who attends middle school with the White Pine County School District.

This process is called a “Pay to Play Fee,” a program that was instituted a number of years ago so the White Pine County School District could attempt to offset increases in expenditures against declining revenue.

The program doesn’t cover all of the expenses for a student to participate in a sport.

For example, the fee for a White Pine Middle School student to play is $110 per student, which includes equipment fees.

The football fee for a charter student is $285 per student, which includes equipment fees.

The actual cost for a student to participate however is approximately $385 per student. Adam Young, superintendent of the White Pine County School District, explained the school district receives revenue for each student enrolled in the school district.

This allows the district to subsidize the cost of its enrolled students to participate in athletics with this revenue.  For example, a White Pine Middle School student  who pays his/her football fee of $110, the district then subsidizes the remaining amount of $275.

The district does not receive revenue for students enrolled in the charter school. In addition to the state revenue charter schools receive, an amount is deducted from White Pine County School District (WPCSD) funding for local revenue that is provided to the charter schools.

For example, in the 2016-17 school year, the Learning Bridge received per pupil funding of $7,849 per student as did the WPCSD. It was reported that approximately $197,523 ($1,641 per pupil) of local taxes were withheld from WPCSD funding for the Learning Bridge.

This explains why the WPCSD does not subsidize the participation of non-WPCSD students in athletic programs.

During a telephone interview with Kristy Sedlacek, principal of the Learning Bridge, she said, “the charter school reimburses students who are playing a sport and have participated in a fundraiser for the sports programs.” A receipt has to be provided to the administration to issue a reimbursement.

Her concerns were seeing numbers from the White Pine School District on a breakdown of what it is costing the school district for the sports program. She noted there doesn’t seem to be consistency.

A suggestion was given by Young, “one idea that Learning Bridge parents might want to consider is to ask their school to pay the difference between the two fees.  Learning Bridge parents might request that their school cover the difference between the WPCSD student fee of $110 and the charter fee of $285”.  What do the fees go towards? Travel, fuel, the buses they travel on, the referee fees, stipend fees for the coaches.”

There is no doubt a lot of conflict between the WPCD and the Learning Bridge Charter School and it trickles down to the parents and the students.

The WPCSD feels very strongly that it should not subsidize athletic costs for non-students.  To do so would be to take away from the limited resources in place for their own existing student body.

Diluting already scarce instructional resources to subsidize the athletic participation of students who attend a different school would be unfair to the students.

Meanwhile some of the charter school students feel that they are being punished by attending the charter school. With the fee being so high, some kids were unable to play football this year because their parents couldn’t afford the “pay to play” fee.

The next Learning Bridge Charter School board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Learning Bridge School.

One of the agenda items is to develop a committee to handle the issue of sports and the fees that accompany them. It is hopeful that once this committee is created, the two entities can get together for a meeting and work out the issues.

Sedlacek said, “Our problem here is minimal compared to other counties such as Churchill who won’t even allow a charter school to participate in a school district sport.”