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Parents must pay $1,400 per sport

United states

Cash-strapped US schools are charging parents hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for extra-curricular activities and some education programmes.

This year parents enrolling their five-year-olds in all-day kindergarten in Triton regional school district, near Boston, have to stump up $2,200 (pound;1,228), unless they qualify for financial assistance. Next September, secondary students wanting to play American football after school in Hamilton-Wenham, a neighbouring district, will have to pay more than $1,400.

Fees to defray the cost of extra-curricular activities first surfaced during the recession of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, the current budget crunch is dramatically increasing the number of schools levying the charges, while existing fees are being jacked up.

Three-quarters of 214 Massachusetts school districts polled recently collected charges for after-school activities and previously-subsidised student bus fares - more than twice the number as two years ago.

Education chiefs in Hartford, Connecticut and San Antonio, Texas, are currently mulling fees, and schools in at least 35 states are now thought to have them, with rates running from $36.75 per sport in Genessee, Idaho, to thousands of dollars in Massachusetts.

Hamilton-Wenham's business manager Chuck Cooke said the authority had no choice but to hike fees after exhausting other options, including paring library expenses and cutting foreign language teaching.

"Next year (American) football and ice hockey are projected to be $1,400 apiece," Mr Cooke said. "If kids are playing both and another sport, that's $3,000 to $4,000."

Some 55 per cent of US secondary students participate in after-school sports. But in some states, such as California, where fees are banned, such activities are now under serious threat. In March, West Contra Costa school district, near San Francisco, axed all after-school activities to ease a $16.5m funding shortfall.

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