BWW EXCLUSIVE: Student Speaks Out Against $100 Fee To Perform In High School Plays
Like many of her theatre-loving classmates, Olivia Bowley, who just completed her sophomore year at Bel Air High School in Harford County, Maryland, was looking forward to participating in school plays during her junior and senior years.
But last week, as reported by the Baltimore Sun, Olivia was one of over fifty students, parents, teachers and alumni holding a showtune-singing protest outside the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air, the school system headquarters, demanding that the Board of Education rescind a new $100 fee to participate in high school drama productions.
The Sun reports that the fee is projected to raise $50,000, if 500 students participated next year. The additional revenue would help offset $552,293 appropriated from the operating budget fund balance to preserve the swimming program through the next fiscal year, which begins Friday.
But parents and students say that the fee will force them to limit activity in the school's drama program. Bowley's impassioned email to BroadwayWorld, protesting the fee, follows the video news report below.
My name is Olivia Bowley and I am going to be a junior at Bel Air High School this coming school year. I am a part of the Bel Air Drama Company at my school. Recently, the Board of Education for my county has just passed an amendment requiring that only cast members, starting this year, will need to pay $100 to perform in each production our company puts on during the school year. In spite of this policy, drama participants from all over my county have been taking part in a protest in hopes of persuading the Board of Ed to change their minds concerning this inequitable amendment.
I would like to explain to you why we are so passionate about removing this policy, aside from obvious reasons. First off, when this amendment was passed, it went against everything our Board of Ed follows in terms of rules for passing a new policy. This policy was proposed so late during a meeting that NONE OF THE PUBLIC WAS THERE WHEN THEY DECIDED TO PASS THIS, so there was no opportunity for public comments. Also, they did NO research on details concerning this policy, because it was so last minute. In addition, we are the ONLY club being charged this massive fee. It is completely inequitable.
Not to mention, that all the drama companies in our county are COMPLETELY self-sufficient and never take money from the Board for costumes, sets, or any materials necessary to put on our fantastic productions. This fee should not even be considered an "activity fee" because none of the money they are collecting from us goes to our company -- it all goes to the general fund of the Board since they are in debt.
One obvious reason that we are against this, in addition to all the reasons I have listed above, is because this amount of money per actor on stage will be DETRIMENTAL to many schools in our county. Some of these drama programs are just now starting to grow and build themselves up, but many families will not be in an efficient financial state in order to absorb this cost. Many of my fellow thespians in the county are scared for the arts -- scared that this will be the start to a plummet of participation. I already know many students who tell me that our drama company "is the only thing that they can hold on to" and "feels like a second family to them". To think that some might not be able to pursue something they're passionate about because of a price is ridiculous.
Over 200 drama participants in the county attended the next board meeting which was about a week ago to deliver speeches and share our public concerns on this policy. We protested by singing showtunes encouraging team work and determination outside of the Board building before the meeting began. This meeting was also 5 hours long because we had 56 speakers pour their hearts out about what drama means to them -- not only students, but parents, directors, and alumni as well. This ludicrous treatment the students are receiving from the Board of Education is appalling and we are not backing down.
I know this has been a lengthy email, but I am sharing this with you all in hopes that you will spread knowledge of this topic to as many people as possible. We are trying to rally up as much support for the arts as possible as we continue to fight for free drama programs in Harford County, MD. Who better to ask then BroadwayWorld themselves?
Thank you so very much for your attention this evening.