Highline schools students pay to play
It's no secret that the economic times we live in now are tough. The struggle on the economy has trickled down into school systems and has brought a new price for some student athletes at public schools across the country.
That price is "pay to play."
School districts in Washington state and all over the U.S. have begun to experiment with these programs, which ask student athletes and their families to pay a fee to play sports.
Highline Public Schools added pay to play for the 2009-10 school year and the foreseeable future. The program charges both middle school and high school students to play sports.
In comparison to some districts that have instituted similar programs across the country, Highline's fees are relatively cheap.
High school athletes are charged $50 per sport, but only $25 if the student qualifies for free or reduced lunch. The fees are charged for a
maximum of two sports, a student who plays three sports in a year is not charged for the third sport.
There is also a maximum charge of $175 per family for those who have more than one student athlete. That fee is reduced to $85 for families who have kids that qualify for reduced lunch.
Middle school athletes are charged $30 per sport, but only $15 if they qualify for reduced lunch. The maximum charge for a family is $105, the fee being reduced to $50 if the student qualifies for reduced lunch.
"It is going really well right now," Jackie Lewis, vice principal at Highline High School and district athletic coordinator, said.
Up to this point no student has been turned away from sports because of being unable to pay the fees. Lewis said that the schools knew that pay to play was a possibility last year and started raising money so that no student had to be turned away from playing sports.
Lewis added that it is the district's position that no student will be turned away.
Athletic directors, coaches and parents of students began various fundraising efforts at Tyee, Evergreen, Mount Rainier and Highline high schools before the start of this school year.
Lewis didn't have the numbers readily available of how many students needed assistance, but he did say that those numbers vary from school to school.
"I have to take my hat off to the work that was done on our campuses by our athletic directors and coaches," Lewis said.
Many students at all four schools have paid the fees without assistance, but for those that require some help the fundraisers have supplied the necessary funds to cover the fees.
Another reason for the success of pay to play the support that is been given from the community. The Highline Schools Foundation for Excellence is a non-profit group that raises money for Highline schools. The foundation instituted a scholarship program after the announcement of pay to play was made.
Holly Moore, foundation executive director, said that they have raised roughly about $9,000 for the program so far through various donations and events.
The school tries to identify which students have the greatest economic need, and those are the students who are offered scholarships to cover the fees.
"Sometimes funding is beyond just the pay for play fees, more than just the entry fee," Moore said.
She added that there are other things that students must have to play sports, ASB cards, uniforms, physical exams, and all of those things are also considered when handing out scholarships.
Lewis said that much of the money the foundation has raised has not had to be used yet because each of the four schools in the district has been able to support their students through their own fundraisers.
The unused money remains saved in case student need increases.
"Primarily the schools took care of their own pay for play," Lewis said.
Moore hopes that the foundation is able to continue to raise money so that no student ever has to be turned away. "I'm optimistic that we will continue to raise funds this year to cover spring," she said.
She also added that as long as pay to play is in effect, the foundation will offer support to the students.
"These types of things are the types of things that keep kids connected and keep them in school," Moore said of sports and other extra-curricular activities.