Despite strong pushback over the Oswego School District 308's Board of Education’s decision to raise high school athletic fees from $75 to $300 per sport, Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin said that more students came out for fall athletics this school year than in 2017.
The fee increase was approved by the board in February as part of a package of fee hikes and personnel cuts totaling just over $7 million. The increase, approved as part of the district’s effort to offset a multi-million-dollar deficit, was projected to generate $532,875 in revenue annually for the district.
Board President Brad Banks questioned Sparlin about the impact of the fee increase during a board meeting Monday, Sept. 10.
Sparlin told Banks he did not have specific numbers, but added, “We have more kids out for fall sports at the high school level this year than we did last year.”
He said that the district will continue to monitor athlete turnout for winter and spring sports, as well.
The district faced almost immediate objections to the fee increase from coaches, parents and students. At a Feb. 26 board meeting, several current and former high school coaches spoke against the increase.
“By us raising this fee to $300 per sport, we’re taking that opportunity [competing in multiple sports] away from the kids. ... It’s not including, it’s excluding families, and in most cases, the kids that need it the most,” Oswego East High School varsity football coach Tyson LeBlanc said.
Former Oswego High School head football coach Karl Hoinkes told the board, “High school sports should not be a game just for people who are financially well-off.”
In an email sent to the Ledger shortly after the school year began, OSD 308 Lead Athletic Director Darren Howard said that it was too early to determine whether there had been a change in enrollment for fall sports, but that, “We are hopeful that a decrease will not occur, and we will do our best to connect students and parents to the financial resources available.”
The Ledger has sent a request for the exact number of students who came out for fall sports this year in OSD 308, but a response has not yet been received.