Pay-to-play best option for middle school sports

The issue: Pay-to-play middle school sports or activity fee for all students? Our opinion: Students who don’t participate in expensive organized sports shouldn’t have to pay for those who do.

While it would be less costly to spread the financial burden of paying for middle school sports to all students though an activity fee, it doesn’t seem fair.

That’s what Hernando County School Board members are considering to help reduce budgetary concerns in these tough economic times.

Initially, board members were looking at either doing away with middle school sports altogether because of the cost to the district or having those who participate pay to play. School district officials figured that it would cost about $50 per student per sport.

If you want to play, you pay.

Makes sense.

A recent survey on the issue posted on the school district’s website showed that about 50 percent of parents would be willing to pay a $50 fee per sport. Many more would if they had no other choice.

However, at last Tuesday’s school board workshop, Superintendent Brian Blavatt came up with another idea: an activity fee for all students.

Blavatt convinced school board members to go along with his idea of implementing a committee to research activity fees that all students would pay to the school district rather than pursue fees for middle school sports.

With all students participating, it would be much less expensive than sports fees – as much as half or less, Blavatt said, adding that officials from each school would likely have more flexibility in deciding how the money is spent.

“With activity fees, they’re not usually met with as much opposition as we might find with sports fees,” Blavatt said. “In looking at just sports, I don’t think we’re being fair and, from my perspective, an activity fee might be a better direction.”

We do think implementing an activity fee for all students is probably a good idea to cover costs of activities outside the realm of standard education – band, drama, debate, etc. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for every extracurricular activity that schools come up with.

However, an activity fee shouldn’t be in lieu of sports fees.

Middle school sports are expensive, costing the district about $186,000 each year. Football is the most expensive at more than $36,600. A small percentage of the total middle school population participates.

Our question: Why should students who don’t participate in sports be forced to pay for other students to participate?

Middle school sports are terrific for youngsters. However, it’s not part of a standard curriculum that taxpayers should be forced to pay for. It’s also not fair to make students who don’t play sports to pay for those who do. Booster clubs and fundraising events by the athletes could help team members pay the fee.

Pay for play is the best option.

All students participate in school activities in one way or another. A minimal activity fee, say $10, is a good way to cover those expenses.

Otherwise, it’s just taxation without participation.

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