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I love what being on the dance team has taught my daughter. It has taught her to work hard and not give up even when things get difficult. It is currently teaching her that you don’t have to like everyone, but sometimes you do have to work with everyone for the benefit of the team. It has taught her confidence in herself and kept her in great shape. Those are valuable life lessons, and that’s what we’re here for.

But something deeply concerns me about these school sports, marching bands, dance, and cheer teams. They are so expensive that only families with two working parents with really good jobs can afford them. When we went to the first meeting for the dance team, we were told we needed to pay $1000 that month. No warnings and no payment plans. One thousand dollars was due, and if you couldn’t pay that, you were out of luck.

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Both my husband and I work, and while it was tight, it was something we could manage that particular month. Prior to my going back to work? We couldn’t have afforded it, and our daughter would have never would have been able to join the team. Growing up, if I had wanted to do something like this, it would have been impossible. My family never had that kind of disposable income.

This is a public school, and in talking with other parents, these fees are not unusual. And it’s not just the dance team. I know a family who spent over $12,000 for their kids for band this year. Dance didn’t stop at the $1000 of course. It wasn’t unusual to have to pay $500 a month between the next round of uniforms, the next monthly coaching fees, and all the incidentals that kept coming up. Do we really need three sets of expensive practice uniforms? Then two sets of competition uniforms and a game day uniform, each set completed with their own $100+ pair of shoes, jewelry, and hair bows?

The activities within public schools should be available to all. Band, football, dance team shouldn’t be exclusively available to those who can afford it. Not to the privileged few who are lucky enough to have come from families of economic means.

Fair play and opportunities for everyone have always been important to me. But became even more so when I started raising a child with special needs. A child who, if we did not demand that he be given the same opportunities as others, often wouldn’t be given them. He would be left out of the school trips and told to go to the special education room rather than participate in something fun. At one point a school told me they were trying to build a community, and he didn’t belong in their community. This has made me look at situations and realize when we as a community, as a society, are being unfair.

RELATED: This is Middle-Class Motherhood

Our 12 years of living solely off my husband’s income made me hyper-aware of the many times people just don’t have the money for all the things. We as a society need to do better. We need to invest in schools so that not only those who can afford tutors, extra training, and all the extras can participate and succeed. We need to take a hard look at our programs and determine what is necessary to have a good program and what really isn’t, so everyone can participate. We need to take a good hard look at our programs and make sure they are truly open to all.

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Calleen Petersen

An Ordinary Mom who believes in standing up, speaking out, and sharing her truths. A student of psychology. I write about disabilities, parenthood, life, and my thoughts. You can find me at An Ordinary Mom's Musings.

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