An Ohio senator is planning to host hearings across the state in an effort to determine what lawmakers need to do to cut fees associated with playing sports at schools, or if those fees need to be eliminated altogether.
Former teacher and high school football coach — and current state Senator — Cliff Hite believes the fees can become so burdensome, in some cases exceeding $600, that students are discouraged from participation. He and others, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, are concerned that this theory could hold true, especially for those students who participate in multiple sports or activities or for families who have more than one student wishing to participate.
"Co-curricular activities are important to the educational and social development of our young people and often give them a pathway to thrive and succeed at school," Hite said. "Requiring outrageous fees to participate limits students who might not be afforded those opportunities otherwise."
Hite also plans on using the time to discuss youth concussions and sudden cardiac arrests, as well as school start dates.
The hearings will take place throughout November, with legislation expected shortly after that.
Some schools are already acting on their own. In a unanimous vote, the school board in Westerville decided to reduce pay-to-play fees starting immediately. The district is one of the first to do so, and has reduced fees by 40%.
Tracy Davidson, the president of the Westerville Board of Education, said the decision was made in an effort to give more children access to after-school activities and the ability to try everything they would like to.
High school sports in the district were cut from $240 per sport to $150 for the first sport, $75 for the second, and the third will be offered for free. Meanwhile, middle school sporting costs were cut from $120 to $75 for the first sport and $50 for the second, reports Jim Siegel for The Columbus Dispatch.
Other clubs such as music and theater will also see their fees reduced. The board plans to put a family cap on activity fees at $300. Scott Reeves, Westerville's executive director of secondary academic affairs, said they noticed a reduction in participation in after-school activities in recent years.
Davidson added that while she believed the move would be a positive change for the entire state to consider, she felt a statewide initiative would have more variables to consider such as the reasons behind why fees are collected in each district.
Parent Kris Myer agreed and suggested that each district's budget be looked at more closely so that sports do not end up being cut from some schools who need the fees to keep them going, reports Valencia Wicker for 10TV.
Participation fees were introduced by a number of districts after voters turned down a tax increase proposal. In Westerville, the fees generated an average of $600,000 for the district. Those figures will now be cut in half.
Hite is set to host additional hearings in Findlay, Cleveland and Dayton.