“It’s almost a fear of, if you don’t pay you don’t play,” McAllister said. “That pay-to-play is really abhorrent to a lot of people.”
The California Constitution weighs in on the issue, stating that the “constitutional right of free access encompasses all educational activities, whether curricular or extra-curricular, and regardless of whether credit is awarded for the educational activity. The right of free access also prohibits mandated purchases of materials, supplies, equipment or uniforms associated with the activity …”
Affluent families are willing to pay to have their children participate in classes and activities that expand their resumes and enhance the high school experience – sometimes forking over thousands of dollars. The idea that the lacrosse team can no longer charge for uniforms and coaches’ salaries, or that girls basketball can only subsist on voluntary donations, may mean an end to the programs altogether unless creative ways can be found to salvage the programs. And that possibility causes many students and their parents to lash out at the messenger. But ensuring equity is paramount. Should talented soccer players or gifted artists who, because of an inability to pay, be prohibited from developing their skills and reaching their full potential in the one institution in our society – public education – that purports to provide every child equal opportunity? Public education cannot solve the chronic problems of poverty and discrimination in society. But it is the one hope, perhaps our last hope, to level the playing field for those kids who have never received the kinds of advantages the middle and upper classes in our country often take for granted.