Parents spending more on school "Pay to Play" fees

WALLED LAKE, Mich. (WXYZ) - If you are a parent, it is a trend that could cost you money.  At more and more schools, if you want to be on a team, you have to pay to play.

7 Action News reviewed surveys completed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.  They showed that about 10 years ago 41% of schools charged participation fees.  Now that number is at about 51%.

“Some parents can afford it. Some parents can’t afford it,” said Martin Meyer, the father of a student at Walled Lake Western High School. 

The district charges $425 a year for kids to take part in athletics.  That covered any sport that student plays over the course of the year. The district charges annually to encourage students to take part in multiple teams. 

When you look at the 522 schools that responded to the MHSAA survey, that fee is almost three times the median fee schools charge.

“It is a burden to parents, and that is just the start to get in,” said Randy Perigo, a dad to a student at Walled Lake Central High School.

“I love sports, so I kind of made him do it,” said his daughter Abbie. 

“Our families have said that rather than cut programs they’d rather increase fees,” said Brian Swinehart, Director of Athletics at Walled Lake Schools.

He says the athletic budget is approximately $2.2 million.  Fees raise about $900,000. Without fees the district wouldn’t be able to offer so many options kids want from traditional sports to snowboarding, equestrian, and roller hockey.

“I don’t know if there is anyone else out there that has quite the gamut of programs that we do,” said Swinehart.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association says as more schools charge fees it raises the fear that fewer low income kids will pay. 

That fear has kept many districts from charging fees.  Of schools that answered the most recent MHSAA Participation Fee Survey, 253, or 48.5% did not charge a fee. The Waterford School District says it is one of those districts.

"We feel that all students should have the opportunity to participate in athletics, so we provide funding for athletics within the District's budget,” said Rhonda Lessel, Waterford Schools Spokesperson.

Swinehart says Walled Lake Schools are working to make sure all kids have an opportunity with scholarship and assistance programs.  Kids or parents can apply anonymously. 

“We don’t want anybody missing out. There is a huge value in athletics and we want as many kids participating as we possibly can,” said Swinehart. “If you need help, reach out. You can do it anonymously, with dignity.”

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