If you’re wondering what the impact is for “pay to play” in high school, read this…


2 Responses to “If you’re wondering what the impact is for “pay to play” in high school, read this…”

  1. July 14, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    Facing budget challenges, many school districts around the country are instituting “pay to play” policies instead of dropping interscholastic sports.

    While it seems like a pretty good idea, this notion is still in it’s early stages and many are wondering the potential side effects of such a policy.

    One such story unfolded when 17-year-old Colby Hadley received a letter from Haverhill High School in MA recently, and he thought it was his report card.

    He had worked hard on his grades the fourth quarter of his junior year and wanted to show off the improvement to his girlfriend.

    But when he opened the envelope, all he got was a good dose of embarrassment. It contained a letter saying the school would not release his report card until his family paid $230 in sports fees owed to Haverhill High.

    The letter further said if the money owed was not paid by graduation time of next year, Hadley would not receive his cap and gown for graduation.

    The letter angered his mom, Elizabeth Sherman, who said she complained to members of the School Committee.

    “I want my son to get his report card and I want to see their approach to collecting money from parents to change,” she said. “My son is a good student, a good athlete and he shouldn’t have to worry about what I can or can’t afford.”

    Like other high schools in the area dealing with tight budgets, Haverhill High charges fees for students to play sports. It usually costs students $275 to play one sport at the school. There is a $600 individual maximum and an $850 maximum per family. Freshman teams charge $175 per sport. Golf, cheerleading, skiing, boys tennis and wrestling charge $175 per sport. There are extra charges for hockey.

    As of yesterday when The Eagle-Tribune inquired about the situation, Haverhill High Athletic Director Garin Veris said there was a mistake and that Hadley’s report card will be mailed to him.

    Veris said it was his understanding that before he became athletic director a year ago, student-athletes who did not pay their fees did not get their report cards. But when Veris checked into the matter further, he discovered there was no written policy requiring that consequence, he said.

    But for several days before that, Sherman said her family dealt with the frustration of her son being denied his report card.

    She said the family has run into hard times and is struggling to pay mounting bills, including a mortgage on a condo worth less than what they owe on it. They’ve already used tax refund money to pay $370 toward Hadley’s $600 school sports bill, and they’ll pay the remaining $230 as soon as they can afford it, she said.

    Hadley went out for football last fall, but suffered a back injury in September and was out for the rest of the season.

    “He had to go to physical therapy for six weeks, which cost me $50 a week in co-pays,” Sherman said.

    The school reduced Hadley’s football fee to $105, based on the amount of time he actually played. He ran indoor track during the winter and the $265 charge for that brought his total fees owed to $370. His parents paid for that with their tax refund money, but when he went out for spring track, he accrued another $230 in fees.

    Sherman also complained that Veris is too aggressive in pursuing the payments. She said he should contact her about what is owed, rather than her son.

    “I understand the need for user fees, even though I don’t like them and it’s tough for me to pay them, but what really upsets me is the tactics they use to get the money,” she said. “Garin has called my son out of class numerous times to say he needs to pay these fees and I’ve told him to stop it. He did it right before school ended and then sent my son the letter.”

    School Committee members Joseph Bevilacqua and Scott Wood noted parents who are going through financial difficulties can get the user fees waived.

    “We can accommodate for income issues,” Bevilacqua said.

    Wood said he doesn’t like making students pay fees to play sports, but “if we don’t have them, we don’t have sports.”

    As for Veris’ fee-collecting efforts, Wood said, “That’s what he’s supposed to do.”

    “I’m willing to work with parents,” Veris said.

    He said he has given parents extended time to pay the fees “many times.” If a parent wishes to obtain a fee waiver, he or she needs to contact the athletics office “at the beginning of the year,” Veris said.

    Of roughly 600 student-athletes, 80 still owe fees, Veris said. He hasn’t heard from 99 percent of them, he said.

    “I don’t like to be a big ogre,” he said.

    Veris said the sports program is owed $11,000 to $12,000 in fees.

    Sherman called the user fee “ridiculously too much for a public school” and wants Veris to “stop badgering students to pay the fees and instead contact parents.”

    “Parents know they owe user fees,” Veris said.

    He sends out four notices telling them how much they have to pay, he said.

  2. July 14, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    I touched on this exact topic in a two part series, and subsequent follow up posts, on my ChicagoNow blog this past June. As school budgets become tighter and tighter this will become a bigger issue.

    We have only just started down this path. There will be much more to come with regard to “Pay-for-Play” as time goes on.

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