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More districts require fees for sports participation

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The percent of school districts reporting sport participation fees has tripled from 13% in 2010 to 38% in 2013. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) partnered with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association (PSADA) to survey all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania on participation fees and district fundraising.

Pennsylvania does not consider sports a part of guaranteed public education which leaves school boards and districts able to charge participation fees at their discretion. Survey results show not only a growing number of school districts requiring fees, but also prices per student, per activity, are increasing. In 2010, the average activity fee was far below the national average with prices ranging between $5 and $50. In 2012 and 2013, the average pay-to-play or participation fee increased to $65 and $80, respectively.

The survey also asked if school districts were forced to cut sport programs based on financial limitations. Eleven percent of respondents indicated that they cut athletic programs based on funds.

“Many districts are considering this option over program cuts to offset funding decreases and budgeting deficits,” said Todd Hosterman, senior research associate with PSBA and author of the study. “However, the rising cost to athletes and their families is concerning. Looking at the maximum reported $200 per student, per activity, fee would require a three-sport athlete to pay $600 a year.”

Some school districts (22%) also are charging student fees for other extracurricular activities such as band and chorus, according to survey respondents.

As an association, PSBA does not take a position on whether or not school districts should set participation fees for sports and other extracurricular activities.

The latest survey was conducted by PSBA’s Education Research & Policy Center in partnership with Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association. The survey had a response rate of 37%. More details of the updated findings can be found online at www.psba.org/issues-advocacy/issues-research/research-resource-center/pay-to-play_update_2013.pdf.

Previous pay-to-play studies conducted in 2010 and 2012, and other white papers from the Education Research & Policy Center, can be found at www.psba.org/issues-advocacy/issues-research/education-research-policy-center.asp.

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