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City schools to scrap pay-to-play

Springfield superintendent says improved financial outlook prompted decision.

“Pay-to-play” fees could be suspended for at least three years at Springfield schools, if a new proposal is adopted by the board of education Thursday.

The plan comes as some districts are either adding the fees or increasing the amounts required for participation because of financial problems.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, Springfield City Schools athletes have had to pay between $50 to $150 to participate in sports at the middle school and high school level.

The fees were instituted when the district faced financial problems. However, after the passage of a renewal levy, bond issue and some savings, Superintendent Dr. David Estrop said the district is in the position to eliminate the fees.

“Springfield has a long tradition of athletics, and if this fee is keeping some from participating, who would benefit from that, and we can afford right now to suspend it? Why not? To me, it’s a win for everybody,” he said.

Last year, the district collected approximately $48,000 in pay-to-play fees, according to spokeswoman Kim Fish. The majority of the fees went into the general fund to pay coach’s salaries and transportation costs. About a quarter of the money went into the athletic fund to pay for uniforms and sports supplies, Estrop said.

Those fees had parent Jonica Baetty considering transferring her children to another district just to play sports.

“I had a boy in wrestling and two girls that play softball, so it was really expensive,” she said.

While Baetty said she knows there are “other things they could spend the money on,” she said taking away pay-to-play fees will help a lot of people.

“That’s great so the kids can play because a lot of people can’t afford to pay that $150 for their kids to play,” she said.

Volleyball player Tayler Mullins( has played since she was in fifth grade. While the $100 fee has never been a problem since she is the only one playing high school sports in her family, she said she knows that is not the case for all her teammates.

“I know a few of them who have younger siblings coming up so there’s a lot of them playing at once. It can be a lot of money for the family,” she said.

Springfield’s fees are lower than many districts. It cost $50 per sport for middle school students and $100 per sport for high school students, with a $150 annual family cap.

Only Southeastern currently does not have the fees among Clark County’s public schools.

In Huber Heights, school board members voted last month to reduce their fees from $750 to $428 per student— with a $1,200 family cap. Last year, Beavercreek High School students had to pay $300 per sport, with a family cap of $750.

Estrop said this would allow time to see if they could make adjustments to continue covering the cost under a new state budget if necessary, since Ohio’s current budget plan expires in two years.

The district is proposing suspending the fee rather than eliminating it because “I think it’s too difficult to plan too far out in public education,” said Ed Leventhal, school board member.

Board members have already discussed the issue in a work session, and Leventhal said he’s not expecting opposition.

According to a 2007 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, teens who were involved in physical activities or played sports at home were 20 percent more likely to get an “A” in math or English.

The proposal will be put before the school board for a vote during their meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at Clark Center, 1500 W. Jefferson St.

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