House Bill 1660 adds costs for Liberty students

Nicole Hume, Editorial Board

While most high schoolers may not pay much attention to how school activities are paid for, the Issaquah School District does. With a budget of around 26 million dollars, a lot of money goes into the school day to ensure all students have the opportunity to be the best they can be. 

In July 2020, the state of Washington passed a new house bill called Bill 1660. This bill ordered all schools to waive fees for students who qualified for free or reduced lunch prices and was meant to help students participate in school events without feeling the pressure of money. The money is now meant to come from ASB and club fundraising. 

“My understanding is that it’s a bill designed to make sure that all students have access to extracurricular activities, like field trips and registration fees,” Principal Brownson said.

In essence, this bill is a way for low-income students to participate in school activities, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. While this does not cover physical items such as yearbooks or school spirit wear, it does cover costs such as sports applications and ASB cards. The goal is one that promotes equality and a greater school community and is one of the biggest efforts to try and help equity among students.

However, questions have been raised regarding the actual specifics of this bill–mainly, how it is to be funded. Since the state did not provide a method of paying for the additional costs, it falls onto the Liberty ASB program and their funds to pay for students. Donors are also often relied on since the ASB fund has other costs to pay as well.

“The hard thing is that even if the fees are waived, that does not mean they go away. So, the real question becomes, how do we deal with these costs?” Liberty Bookkeeper Mrs. Fullington said. “The state’s answer was to just do more fundraising. But people get burnt out on that.”

For Liberty ASB, Bill 1660 is a difficult subject, not only for the financial aspects but for the access provided by it. Many students who may actually fit the requirements for aid never ask for it or indicate they need it, which has caused ASB increased worries about equity at Liberty.

“I struggle with how even if a family qualifies for this help, they may not choose to access it,” ASB Director Mrs. Munson said. “In my opinion, the bill isn’t bad–but we can’t help people if we don’t know they need it.”

While the costs have not begun to stack up yet due to COVID, going back to school full-time has created the worry that unexpected costs will hurt Liberty’s extracurriculars. 

“Where it’s really going to be a concern is in school districts where a majority of students qualify for aid. Who is going to pay for clubs or sports if nobody can pay? School districts may start being unable to afford programs,” Fullington said.

For Fullington, a large concern is the schools with high percentages of low-income students will be affected the most since most students will qualify for aid. At schools that already suffer from low funding, this could be an end to many programs that schools can offer, from being able to rent a pool for a swimming team or afford registration for events.

Thanks to the Issaquah School District and Liberty’s own funding efforts, Liberty is not likely to go through large changes from this bill. However, staying mindful of these changes is needed for an informed student body as the school year continues.