Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

Hillsborough to explore idea of charging to play school sports

TAMPA — Hillsborough County public school officials will soon explore the possibility of having students pay to participate in sports.

That possibility is purely theoretical, said School Board member April Griffin, who raised the issue at Tuesday's meeting. And it's not something she favors.

But, given the uncertainty of future education budgets, board members voted to discuss the idea at a workshop.

"I think times are changing and I think pay-for-play is something we need to consider," said chairwoman Candy Olson, adding that she wants to explore the legal issues, including gender equity.

The idea arose after a lacrosse organization contacted School Board members and asked them to consider a program in the schools.

No details were given about how much lacrosse would cost, or how much students might be asked to pay. One option would be to use lacrosse as a model for a pay-to-play system.

Pay-to-play is a hot topic in districts around the country, said Lanness Robinson, Hillsborough's athletics director.

While it exists in some Florida districts, Robinson said the practice generally isn't used in large, urban districts such as Hillsborough, where a centralized program offers the same sports in all 27 high schools.

"We don't want some of the schools to be the haves and others to be the have-nots," he said.

Lacrosse, in particular, is in demand in some communities, but not others, he said. And surveys show that far more boys than girls would like to play.

Statewide, only a handful of districts have pay-to-play policies, charging as much as $100 per student, according to another survey conducted recently by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

However, it is common to charge for travel, equipment and uniform rental, and to ask students to engage in fundraising.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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