Exorbitant fees for school sports, clubs the subject of state audit

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – State auditors are not cheering about astronomically high fees for middle and high school students who want to join clubs and sports teams, suggesting schools around Utah may be breaking the law. 

The audit, released Tuesday, details exorbitant amounts that students and parents are paying to join cheer squad, drama club, drill team and other extracurricular activities. 

For example, in one Utah school, show choir cost $2,795 per student. In another, cheerleading cost $2,500 per student. The audit covers the year 2017 school year. 

Costs have risen in the last two decades; therefore, club fees are getting steeper, said Alisa Ellis with the Utah Board of Education. She oversaw the audit that took place within the Board of Education. The audit released earlier this week came from a legislative auditing committee.

“We realized there was a problem in early 2017,” said Ellis. The Utah Board of Education’s audit found 94% of schools surveyed were not in compliance with at least one portion of a 1994 court order that dictates no student should be left out if they can’t pay club fees for football, basketball, cheer squad, drama club and other activities. 

Now, they’re working to streamline the training school districts receive on an important rule. 

“We have been ordered by a judge to make sure that all students that are on free lunch to be able to have their fees waived,” said Ellis. 

Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said his district works hard to comply with the rule. 

“The message that we are sending … is that if there is a student at any of our schools who thinks that they can’t participate in any activity because of cost … they should know that we will work with them,” said Haney. 

Haney added schools may have to get creative in how they include students who otherwise would be excluded because they can’t afford the club. 

The state is now monitoring the amounts spent on clubs, and sacrifices may need to be made to meet budget demands. 

In 1994 when a Third District judge ordered schools comply with state law, fees for some clubs were only $1,000 per student. Even then, that was considered a lot. 

“We appreciate the audit … both our audit and the legislative audit because it gives us the opportunity to take corrective action,” Ellis said. 

The audit suggested that fundraising in schools has largely gone unregulated, a problem factored into the amount parents are shelling out. 

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