Dance team funding a sign of the future?

By Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

At Tuesday's meeting of the New Prague Area School Board the board approved the addition of a Dance Team that will compete in Minnesota State High School League competition next year.

Adding activities is not uncommon. It's been three years since the board added soccer and 10 years since girls hockey was added to New Prague's activity offerings. However, what's different this time is that the dance team will work through Community Education, not through the activities department. With no money in the activities budget for dance, the program will be funded by the squad members themselves.

School budgets are getting tighter each year. Twice in the last few years, when the district was faced with budget cuts, the board voted to raise activity fees rather than cut programs. With no new funding in site, expect that trend to continue.

The primary function of a school district is educating its students, so there is no argument here about putting classrooms first. However, studies have shown that students involved in extracurricular activities tend to get better grades. There is a lot to be said for football teams, wrestling squads, bands and choir, drama, knowledge bowl and even dance teams. Each of these give students the opportunity to excel in an activity.

Kudos to the school board for finding a way to sponsor another activity in a time of tight funding, and to the more than 30 girls who have expressed an interest in dance team and a willingness to pay for it.

However, we hope that this type of funding is a temporary solution to a tight activities budget. Asking students to bear the full cost of these programs discourages participation, especially among those whose families may not have the financial resources to pay all the fees. It was only a few decades ago when there was no such thing as activity fees. While we may never get back to that point, the fees must stay affordable, so all students can benefit from these offerings.

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