Re: Season feedback: Unfair competition and dumb posters.

I can't speak to your concerns about price or limited opportunity to program. Those are decisions each team makes. The field kit is probably break even for Lego if you look at the average price per piece for regular sets.
Poster requirements vary by region. In MA, they aren't required, but I've found it's a good way for the kids to organize their work (at least on the project end). I don't know about core values poster.

In terms of competition, remember "what we learn is more important than what we win". The Lego and robot and competition are just tools to get the kids to learn and have fun. Unless you have different divisions (I think some places do), the robot scores will always tilt towards more experienced teams. That's true for most things. The great part is seeing teams grow as they gain experience. There are tons of stories of younger teams being inspired/motivated by seeing older teams do better.

Of course none of the benefits come without time investment. Again, that's something that the teams and coaches control. It's usually very difficult for new teams (any team really) to achieve high robot scores in a couple of hours a week, but that doesn't mean they aren't learning or having fun along the way or that a team can't have a great season working a couple hours a week. Four or six hours a week for a team that wants to be competitive is probably typical, but that's a choice teams themselves make.

There are some other kinds of competitions out there such as VEX or Destination Imagination you could explore if FLL isn't for you.
Could you have a robot competition without core values and project--sure. In retrospect, though, some of our best experiences have been through meeting experts and sharing the project.
Even though I complain about some of the details of rules or shared missions, FLL really is a well organized and run organization. I'm really thankful to the founders, FIRST, and the sponsors for giving my son and I this opportunity.