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Broward County Pay-To-Play Sports


Broward County Pay-To-Play Sports

Broward debates charging students to play school sports

By Bill Hirschman
Education Writer
Posted March 10 2005

Broward would turn into the lone Florida school district that charges students an activity fee to participate in sports under a volatile proposal discussed this week by the School Board, the state athletic association said Wednesday.

Board member Beverly Gallagher, who championed the idea this week in a workshop, said the issue is treating everyone the same as a debate team or marching band, activities in which participants pay money.

The only other district charging athletes any money is Palm Beach County which pays its liability insurance by assessing each student $50, said John Stewart, commissioner of the Florida High School Athletic Association.

"The last thing you want to do is get into a discussion of which is more important, but there are people who will say that you wouldn't have a marching band if you didn't have a football team," Stewart said Wednesday.

If the taxpayers are subsidizing sports, said Gallagher, they should also underwrite non-athletic activities from the debate team to the Junior ROTC drill squad.

"I'm in no way trying to make sports less important, but who is to say that a high school baseball player is more important than a debater, that an NFL football player is more important a Supreme Court justice?"

The issue is poised to drive a wedge between parents.

"They're crazy. These people are nuts," said Lucy Reese, whose son plays basketball at Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines. "I already put aside $600 a year [in travel and tickets] to pay to see them play."

Athletic directors worry that any fee might prevent students from participating.

"Fifty dollars is not like 50 cents to many of these families; it's like $500. It isn't just a drop in the bucket," said Dillard Athletic Director Tracie Latimer.

Boosters would have to ratchet up fund-raising to underwrite students, Latimer said. But that's already what band booster clubs do, Gallagher countered.

The budget for student groups that travel out of town can be sizeable. When Dillard's varsity football team travels to a regional playoff, the cost ranges between $20,000 and $30,000, Latimer said.

In theory, schools only receive $15,000 from the school district to underwrite all team sports, said Bill Caruso, Cypress Bay High's athletic director.

But many schools use money from discretionary accounts, proceeds from concessions, cake sales, car washes, donations and ticket sales to games.

Gregg Lickstein, president of Cypress Bay's baseball boosters, said, "We don't have near enough money and we're the state champs."

The investment pays off from an education viewpoint, Stewart said.

"First, it's the best dropout prevention program going and secondly, that participation has a positive impact on the student's performance in school … because they are required to have a 2.0 grade average to participate."

Bill Hirschman can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4513.

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