Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Will pay-to-play in school sports keep kids on the sidelines?

with 12 comments

It happened in 1991, it happened in 2002, and it’s really, really, really, really, really happening now. In recessionary times, public school districts begin charging fees for sports and other extracurricular activities. Except in Ohio’s sixth-largest school district, in southwest Columbus, which didn’t want its poorer children put in the position of being left out because of money, so it eliminated sports and activities for everyone.

But extreme equality — we treat you all like dogs — aside, scores of school districts are instituting fees for the first time, and they’re afraid that each dollar that has to come out of a parent’s pocket means one less student playing sports. In Loudon County, Va., one of the fastest-growing exurbs in the country during the housing boom, a $15 million budget gap means a $100-a-head fee per student, per sport. From the Loudon Times:

Park View football coach Andy Hill’s primary concern is that the fee might discourage athletes who think they are unlikely to see a lot of playing time.

“The starting varsity athletes will come up with a way to find the fee,” Hill said. “I think the big question is what about that second-tier player? What about that JV player?”

For the 2008-09 school year, the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations reported that participation in high school sports had risen for the 20th straight year — 55.2 percent of all boys and girls, up from 54.8 percent in 2007-08. But pay-for-play was just beginning to trickle into places it had never trickled before. Also in the Washington Post story reporting these numbers was this foreboding paragraph:

According to a source at Montgomery County (Md.) public schools, however, sports participation in Montgomery dropped in 2008-09, down nearly 20 percent from 2007-08. A noticeable drop-off occurred in the winter and spring, once the economic downturn was clearly not a quick blip in the market. Furthermore, the source said the number of students who received a waiver of the county’s $30 athletic participation fee tripled from the previous year. According to a source at Montgomery County public schools, however, sports participation in Montgomery dropped in 2008-09, down nearly 20 percent from 2007-08. A noticeable drop-off occurred in the winter and spring, once the economic downturn was clearly not a quick blip in the market. Furthermore, the source said the number of students who received a waiver of the county’s $30 athletic participation fee tripled from the previous year. (Note: Montgomery raised its fee from $20 to $30 in 2007.)

That’s not a good sign for schools going from zero to $100 or $300 if a $30 fee is pricing out a lot of families. If you want another ominous sign, one northern California district that tried to get families of players to contribute to their the athletic department is now threatening cancellation of sports or forfeiture of games by teams with uncollected fees, because it’s so far behind the budgetary eight-ball.

There’s an argument that children who participate in extracurricular activities should help pay the freight. However, what these fees do is make school sports and activities like park district or private or club activities — something that skews toward people with money, leaving struggling families out in the cold. It’s a shame that in a public school, a child could not participate because of a fee, on top of the taxes the family already pays. Of course, sometimes the problem isn’t just a declining real-estate market killing property tax collections — in this economy, many residents are less likely to vote for a tax referendum that they ever were.

Are pay-to-play fees for sports and other activities keeping your kids from participating? Have you noticed any participation problems in your area because of this?

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Written by rkcookjr

September 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Thanks for picking up on this story. 20% doesn’t really tell the whole picture. Montgomery County Public Schools have around 139,000 students. 20% of the after school participants comes to around 6,000 students. That’s a lot of students that aren’t participating in after school activities and a huge one year drop off.

    But the drop off actually started when the fee was raised to $30 the previous year. MCPS is now in the third year of this fee increase and the Board has yet to address the dire consequences.

    http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2009/09/20-drop-sports-with-50-fee-increase.html

    Hopefully, your reporting will bring this issue to the attention of the public, the Board of Education and Superintendent Jerry Weast. Thank you, again!

    janis

    September 29, 2009 at 11:24 am

  2. […] under budget strains are being forced to consider either making major cuts in sports or levying pay-to-play fees on athletes, both of which have the effect of weeding out potential athletes who are stuck in a […]

  3. […] for South-Western’s involved children. The school reinstated sports, but it also installed a pay-to-play system. According to ThisWeek, “[h]igh school athletics will cost $150 per participant per […]

  4. […] issue if, say, a family decides not to sign a child up because of other economic issues, such the expense of athletic fees or the worry of not being able to afford sufficient […]

  5. […] might come as a surprise, what with high school sports supposed to be suffering because of school and family budget crises, players ditching school sports in favor of elite club teams, the decline of the three-sport […]

  6. […] might come as a surprise, what with high school sports supposed to be suffering because of school and family budget crises, players ditching school sports in favor of elite club teams, the decline of the three-sport […]

  7. […] competence come as a surprise, what with high propagandize sports ostensible to be pang given of school and family bill crises, players ditching propagandize sports in preference of chosen bar teams, the decrease of a […]

  8. […] competence come as a surprise, what with high propagandize sports ostensible to be pang given of school and family bill crises, players ditching propagandize sports in preference of chosen bar teams, the decrease of a […]

  9. […] might come as a surprise, what with high school sports supposed to be suffering because of school and family budget crises, players ditching school sports in favor of elite club teams, the decline of the three-sport […]

  10. […] While it’s nice to see that sports isn’t being eliminated completely in Westerville, it’s unfortunate that, as in many places, athletics is out of reach to many because of pay-to-play fees. […]

  11. […] While it’s nice to see that sports isn’t being eliminated completely in Westerville, it’s unfortunate that, as in many places, athletics is out of reach to many because of pay-to-play fees. […]

  12. […] However, the case is building that pay-to-play fees, instituted by budget-strapped schools so they don’t cut sports programs, are the difference between some kids playing, and some kids not. A few years ago it was noted that the institution of a mere $30 fee to play sports in Montgomery County, Md., schools cut participation by 20 percent. […]


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