Students pay to participate in school sports

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By Tiara Marocco
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Writer

Bath, MI – With the budget cuts affecting schools’ athletic programs, Bath schools have implemented “pay-to-participate” to help their athletics prosper.

Many schools in Michigan have experience a drop in funds for extra-curricular activities and athletics.

Bath High School Football Field
Photo taken by Tiara Marocco

“Pay to participate came about in our district in about 2002,” said Matt Dodson, Bath High School principal, “and it started at $50-75 for the whole year.

“We’ve had to raise it to about $100 and that pays for a student to play as many sports they want for that whole school year.”

Keeping it manageable

“Our athletic budget has been cut about 30%,” said Dodson, “so that kind of became a necessity for us to offer the same level of programs without cutting sports.”

All the fees to participate that the families pay all go completely towards the sports programs and extra-curricular activities, said Erik Harrelson, Bath High School athletic director.

Bath community schools have found ways to make these payments manageable for families who cannot pay fully right away.

“The issue came up with multiple kids in a family,” said Dodson, “so we capped it at $200. If you have three kids playing sports, you won’t pay over $200.”

This “pay-to-participate” program applies to both the high school and the middle schools.

“I have three kids, one in middle school and two in high school,” said Renee Moffitt.

“Home of the Fighting Bees” logo
at Bath High School softball field
Photo taken by Tiara Marocco

We understand what parents pay taxes and help fund the school, so it can be frustrating that this isn’t covered, as well but because it is extra-curricular, we had to supplement it in some way, said Dodson.

“Students who are experiencing financial hardship can still participate in sports. We are flexible and we provide payment plans.”

“We also waive the fee for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch,” said Harrelson.

Families funding and fundraising

“All three of my kids play sports,” said Moffitt, “so I only have to pay $200 for all of them each year.”

“This has always been a normal fee that I do not see a problem with and I haven’t heard of any issues from other parents.”

Bath schools have tried to keep the fees low only once a year, while some schools require a payment for each sport, said Dodson.

Almost every sport fundraises and we are lucky to have such a giving and supportive community in our district, said Harrelson.

There are many staff members and parents who graciously volunteer and that has greatly helped us out financially. We are thankful to have such a community who volunteers as much as they do, said Dodson.

We fundraise for all the sports my children play and I enjoy being able to help out my children and their teams, said Moffitt.

Other schools participating

DeWitt public schools also have a sports participation fee for their students.

View Bath and DeWitt public schools in a larger map

“We began charging a $30 participation fee around 2001,” said Sue Dabakey, DeWitt schools athletics secretary, “and it has increased over the years.”

“It started as a way to help pay for the Athletic Trainer, but now is more of a way to enhance the Athletic Budget.”

The fee has changed to $225 per high school student and $150 per junior high athlete, with a $500 family cap, said Dabakey.

DeWitt schools also work with families to install a payment plan and they waive the fees for free and reduced lunches for the families who qualify, like the Bath schools do.

“My brother was able to play the sports he wanted and the school was able to work out a payment plan with my family,” said Sam Ruiz, DeWitt high school alumna.

“It may seem like a high price to pay, but athletics need funds to prosper. This allows students to be able to participate in the athletics that they want, with safe facilities and good coaching staffs.”

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