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Taylorsville Journal

Students could be paying less for extracurricular activities next year

Aug 06, 2019 02:57PM ● By Jet Burnham

Sierra Yost won her event at DECA region and state competitions to qualify for nationals. (Photo courtesy Utah DECA)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Sierra Yost, a recent Taylorsville High School graduate, placed first in her event at state competition for DECA, a business and marketing club, qualifying her to travel to Washington, D.C., to compete with students from around the world.

“I think that nationals is an amazing opportunity for students because not only are you meeting people that you would never meet otherwise, but I had never really interacted with anybody outside of the United States, so it was very interesting to get their perspective,” she said.

Yost was the first Taylorsville High School student in five years to qualify for DECA national competition and, along with 50 other Utah students, had to pay for entry fees, lodging and travel to Washington, D.C., to compete. Because of her first-place win at state, Yost said a large portion of her costs was covered by the school district and Utah DECA. Second- and third-place qualifiers were left with a much bigger bill.

Yost said participation in the event, which included a visit to Universal Studios and Disney World with all the competitors, was a great opportunity for high school students.

“A lot of the kids that went wouldn't be able to go to these parks or see these things without the help from their schools or even from the DECA board,” said Yost. “A lot of these students, I mean, it was their first time leaving Utah. So, I think that it's an amazing opportunity because you get to branch out and meet new people, see new things.”

Fortunately for students like Yost, DECA is one of the least expensive activities ($15 for dues and $10–$40 for each local competition) compared with cheerleading or sports teams, which can total thousands of dollars. 

Parents have been complaining about the rising costs of school fees for years. Tamra Dayley, of the Utah State Board of Education auditing department, said a recent USBE audit found school fees have been on the rise in recent years, outpacing inflation and student enrollment, while the number of fee waivers has declined. 

Additionally, a legislative audit of secondary school fees last September found evidence of widespread violations of Utah Code in regards to activity fees and accessibility. The report showed problems with hidden fees (a cheerleading fee was listed at $1,775 but students ended up paying $2,500), students being required to purchase items listed as optional (team spirit packs and camps), and waivers not being offered to qualified students. 

In response to the findings, USBE is working to bring school districts into compliance with the Utah Administrative Rule and the recently passed house bill 250, which ensures that public school system fees do not create a barrier to full participation for any student, regardless of their financial circumstances.

By next year, USBE will require schools to publish accurate school fees, set caps on total fees a single student can be asked to pay and implement corrective action for noncompliance to these rules, many which have been in effect for decades but have been misunderstood. New regulations will also prohibit individual fundraising requirements for students to supplement activity fees.

Dayley said, ultimately, the goal is to make activities—curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular—accessible for all students through appropriate fees and waiver eligibility. 

“Every student should be able to participate fully in their education experience, regardless of their social-economic situation,” said Dayley.

For students such as Yost, participation in school activities is priceless. Yost said DECA has been the biggest influence on her life, and she believes she would be a different person if she hadn’t joined the club her sophomore year.

“I think that I still would be an introvert,” said Yost. “I don't think that I would be able to communicate well or have had the business opportunities and job experiences that I have had.”

Tori Wouden, DECA club adviser at Taylorsville High School, said school clubs such as DECA benefit students well beyond high school.

“My whole promotion for DECA is that we’re creating an experience that’s going to help them in life,” she said.

For more information on school fees, see here

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