The energetic kid badly wanting to sign up for an after school program. The words-loving student struggling to hear their teacher’s stories. The parent desperate to find help for their kid for a particular need at school.
These are all deeply private stories whose details will never be shared. And they all have something in common: barriers.
For countless students across the United States, barriers also look like summer football camp fees, ASB cards or band trips.
When Washington state enacted HB1660 in 2020, its goal was to remove that kind of barrier for its students: those in the free/reduced lunch programs would also have participation and program fees for extracurricular activities waived.
“The concept is a good one,” said Cheri Dailey, director of risk management and business operations for BGPS and a Battle Ground Education Foundation (BGeF) Board member. “But as an unfunded mandate, it had unintended consequences.”
No longer able to require participation and registration fees from eligible students — nor, understandably, permitted to ask students about it — means these optional, extracurricular programs and initiatives must now be fully funded up front. This stipulation has left ASB offices, parent organizations and booster clubs scrambling.
Michelle Scott, BGPS’ chief financial officer, said they have been working hard to backfill the gaps, but the district is limited in what they are able to cover.
“Programs used to specify fundraising thresholds students had to meet, like, each student has to sell this much cookie dough,” Scott said. “Now we can ask students and families for help, but we can’t require it.”
Battle Ground High School’s secretary for their ASB, Cindy Brooks, cited football camp as an example.
“It costs something like $200-250 for camp. I can’t know how many of the kids need help, but I get the bill for all 60 of them,” Brooks said. “Overall, we’re probably down about $25,000 that we’d normally collect in participation fees. That’s what we’d use to pay for officials, buses and the postseason.”
But against a backdrop of barriers falling and rising, this is a story of barrier-breakers.
The students hoping for a bit of help with after school sports, hearing care or a personal need, have something else in common: their needs were all met by BGeF’s Kids in Need Fund.
This discretionary fund exists to assist individual students with specific needs. The fund is supplied by individual donors and by organizations like an anonymous local group who has been quietly sending checks to BGeF’s Kids in Need fund for years.
Debbie Slocum is the program coordinator for community education and facility use. She also spent 10 years working in special education at Prairie High School.
“At Prairie, we had a lot of kids in foster care who wanted to do extra activities like Quick Start sports, but were in a situation where their families couldn’t possibly pay. There were kids living with grandma or grandpa on fixed incomes, who couldn’t afford to cover those things,” Slocum said. “And now at community ed, I’m getting to see firsthand BGeF stepping in to make things like after school optional activities, possible for kids needing help.”
Cheri Dailey observed we may not yet understand the full impact of HB1660 across BGPS’ extracurricular programs.
“The bill is complex and fluid,” agreed CFO Scott. “The district has spent hundreds and hundreds of hours coming up with best practices for it. We’re doing everything we can. Everybody has to work together to make sure these students are funded.”
Slocum said, “Kids need sports. They need to be on their feet and out there if they’re going to do well academically. It all ties together.”
To learn more about the Battle Ground Education Foundation and how you can help support students and schools, visit bgef.org. Donations toward specific school programs can be made through the schools’ ASB offices.