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Published: Monday, 5/17/2010

Perrysburg to weigh pay-to-play policy

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A committee to study implementation of pay to participate for the 2011-12 school year in the Perrysburg Exempted Village School District should be created, Superintendent Tom Hosler recommended Monday night.

Mr. Hosler, who made a presentation to the board and an audience of about 25 people at Toth School, said after the meeting he anticipates the committee will be set up later this year.

During his presentation he outlined several options which could be considered by the committee, including a fee structure to cover only pay to play for sports. Other options would charge fees for other activities as well.

Information has been gathered from some school districts across the state and country, and it would be up to the committee to narrow down the options to what makes sense in Perrysburg, Mr. Hosler said.

One option would be to impose a flat, one-time fee for all activities. A family would pay a fee at the beginning of the school year, and a child could participate in whichever activities he or she wants.

For example, a family could be charged $50 for one child to participate in activities and up to $150 for three or more children. The fee would be charged when a student was accepted onto a team or into an organization, and if the student would be dismissed from activities, there would be no refund. Such a system would be easy to keep track of, and everyone pays the same regardless of activity or how long the activity is in place, Mr. Hosler said.

Other options include a pro-rated fee for more expensive programs, he said.

For example, a school district near Cleveland charges a student $450 to play football.

Each sport, under such a system, would have its own fee depending on cost to run the activity and number of participants.

The upside, Mr. Hosler said, would be that it would charge participants based on cost of the activity, but the downside would be the expense, such as it could cost more than $1,000 for a student to play football and baseball and to wrestle. Another option would be to charge fees for the first three activities, such as $160 for first activity, $100 for second, and $60 for third, or $320 for three high school activities.

Initial analysis of some options shows if Perrysburg charges $50 for a student to play a sport, the fee could bring in $41,000 a year or about $83,000 a year if the fee was raised to $100 per student at the high school level.

Mr. Hosler pointed out that the options mentioned would not cover all the costs for the sports and activities offered at Perrysburg. The district pays $900,000 for coaches and activities' advisers per year. Higher fees would be required to pay most or all programs costs.

Mr. Hosler said he would want information gathered from other districts, from parents, coaches, and the community about what the goal is and what should be accomplished and what would be the impact on children and families. He said pay to participate is a tough topic to talk about when money is tight for families.

Athletic directors would be interested in serving as chairmen for the committee, and Mr. Hosler said he would want a report in January and a recommendation in February which could be presented to parents about what is going to happen.

The committee would need to have some direction from the board about what the fees would accomplish, such as offsetting some costs or creating enough money to support a program. He would like to see a wide range of individuals on the committee.

Board member Walter Edinger said the board should think about what people can afford, and he said he doesn't think the board wants to put families in the position of thinking about what they can afford when it comes to what activities their children participate in.

If the board wants to consider pay to participate as a significant source of income, then huge fees would be necessary, Mr. Edinger said. He also said if parents are paying $350, for instance, for a child to play a sport, then parents won't likely want their children to sit on the bench. It would be pay to play, not pay to practice, he said.

He said he understands the need for other sources of revenue, but a pay to participate policy would exclude a lot of kids, and he said he thinks that would be the wrong approach. He said it would take the public part out of public education.

However, board member Gretchen Downs said she cannot comprehend a pay-to-learn policy and no pay-to-play policy. Such a policy, where Perrysburg charges families fees for required classes, and does not charge to play sports, goes beyond all rational, she said. While some say football has to be free, it does not have to be that way, she said. She would support an activity fee that would make a dent in the district's budget.

Perrysburg has cut about 50 positions as it struggles to make ends meet with rising costs and dwindling revenue.

Both Mr. Edinger and Mrs. Downs later in the meeting voted no on a motion to approve school fees for the coming year.



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