‘Pay-To-Play’ Fees Cause Concern


The higher “Pay-to-Play” fees that have been approved next year in the Payson Unified School District have me concerned.

They also leave other coaches and retired coaches in Payson and around the state questioning the wisdom of the fees, which next year at PHS will be $200 for the first sport and $60 for a second with a family cap of $400.

Those fees represent a significant increase from last school year when they were $60 per sport.

“Pay to Play” is certainly the rage around the country as school districts scramble to balance budgets and makeup for reduced state funding.

In Payson, and at other schools as well, extracurricular activities were among the first budget items put on the chopping block — despite the fact teachers, administrators, coaches and parents have long supported and sponsored them, saying they improve physical health, teach teamwork and individual responsibility, provide students with opportunities to develop special relationships with adults, encourage good use of time and promote interaction among students.

Extracurricular activities are also a source of school pride and give the entire student body a rallying point.

And make no mistake about it, when college and university administrators and others dole out scholarships, one of the items they weigh heavily is the student’s participation in extracurricular activities.

Just check out the Mogollon Sporting Association’s Ted Pettet Scholarship — one of its requirements is two years of extracurricular activities.

Former Show Low High School principal Monty Harris told me at the onset of my first season as the Cougars’ head football coach that the results would dictate the entire school year.

“We have a good year in football, and the entire year will be good,” I remember him predicting.

Monty was right on target, we did well and SLHS flourished.

At Payson High, look back at the state football champion seasons of 1998 and 2008.

In 1998, PHS was an Arizona Interscholastic Association award winner for schoolwide achievement. I remember the assembly in which the award was presented. Dennis Pirch gave a congratulatory speech, the kids hooted, hollered and high-fived, the faculty was all smiles and all was well in Longhorn land.

The same pride occurred after the Longhorns won the state football championship 10 years later.

Remember how the entire town turned out to greet the team as it victoriously bussed back to Payson from Flagstaff?

If that hoopla and hysteria didn’t create goosebumps, nothing will.

Looking back, most concerned parents I met during my teaching and coaching career truly appreciated the educational value of extracurricular activities and considered them an integral part of a well-rounded education, which they most certainly are.

Among my concerns with “Pay to Play” is for the students whose families cannot afford to pay.

In these tough economic times, the money might be needed to pay rent or put food on the table.

Some schools will argue they will have some type of fee waiver scholarships and while those intentions are well meant, the fees in themselves are a bad idea because they will eventually undermine a school’s authority.

One local highly regarded former PHS coach brought up the point of playing time, which is a coaching decision and should remain that way.

He said, “I can see parents coming up and saying, I’ve paid for my child

child to play, I don’t want him on the bench.”

Or, what happens when the coach or AD gets ready to order new uniforms, and a parent complains, not liking the style or color or maybe the way it fits the son or daughter?

“I’m paying to buy them, I should have a say,” they might argue.

We former educators with concerns about the fees see that “Pay to Play” has the potential to affect team composition during tryouts and possibly the picking of coaches.

In short “Pay to Play” can undermine a school’s authority to make decisions by allowing laypersons to be involved in those choices.

And if schools are allowed to charge fees for extracurricular activities, what is the guarantee that down the road fees might be also charged for advancement placement classes, student government or the school newspaper?

Finally, the fees football players must pay especially disturb me.

Football is the cash cow of athletics, generating hundreds of dollars that benefit the district.

So, a football player must pay $200 so he can go out on Friday nights and earn more money for the district.

That’s akin to a teenager paying a fast food joint a fee and then working for free flipping hamburgers to make the corporation even more money.

Doesn’t make any sense to me.

Although the “Pay-to-Play” fees have not been challenged much in the courts, there is a growing contingent, including former coaches, teachers and administrators, who argue that the fees violate constitutional guarantees of a free public education.

The new “Pay-to-Play” fees will, in the words of my father, mean “we’ve opened a whole new can of worms.”


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