Pay-To-Play Fees For School Sports Could Be On The Chopping Block

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If you are a parent - you know it's getting more and more expensive for your child to participate in school activities.

Ohio legislators plan to tackle the debate of Pay-to-Participate fees Thursday.

After a series of public hearings, they’ll decide if the fees should be slashed or eliminated altogether.

Westerville City Schools is one of the first districts in Central Ohio to cut their fees by almost 40 percent.

“The Westerville school district has a health financial forecast so that gave us the ability to look at the Pay-to-Participate fees,” said Tracy Davidson, the president of the Westerville Board of Education.

She and four other board members voted to decrease the fees district-wide. The measure was approved unanimously.

“What we ended up deciding was, we wanted to give kids access,” said Davidson. “And when the fees are so high, kids were only choosing a sport. And we know this is the time in a child's life when they should be trying everything.”

Initially, participation in sports for Westerville schools cost parents $240 per sport, per student for high-schoolers. But, the board decided to institute a $300 family cap, no matter how many sports your kid or kids are involved in.

“It's a $150 dollars per sport, the second sport will be $75 and the third sport is free. For middle school level it's going to be $75 for the first sport, $50 for the second sport, the third sport is,” said Davidson.

While Davidson says she believes a statewide change is worth looking into, she also says a statewide initiative will have more variables to consider.

“Here's what I would suggest: please go to the school districts, talk to the superintendents, the school board, the administrators, see why the fees are collected,”  said Davidson. “What worries me is, there's not going to be enough help and then sports will be cut. And we know how important sports are for kids.”

Davidson isn’t alone. Parents of students in Westerville Schools say they’d like to see legislators take an in-depth look at the pros and cons.

“I think they need to look at the budget,” said Kris Myer, whose daughter is a senior volleyball player at Westerville Central High School. “And it's not just the athletes. It's the uniforms and the coaches and the facilities and what happens when playoffs come.”

Other parents raised similar questions.

“Whether we can maintain the same level of quality in the program,” said Randy Lyon, also a parent of an athlete at Westerville Central. “For instance, football concussions being a huge thing, if we went out there with helmets that weren't of the best quality that would be a sad thing.”

The first public hearing will be held Thursday at the Statehouse from 2-4 p.m.