School District Requires Students to Pay to Play Sports
By: Heartland News
HARRISBURG, Ill. - To say the Harrisburg school district has money trouble is an understatement.
The district is on the state's financial watch list and is nearly $2 million in the red.
Now, the school board has come up with a way they say will erase some of the red ink.
It's called having to pay to play.
Some of the parents say they don't agree with the pay-to-play program, but the school board members say they didn't have any other choice. They say it was either cut the school's sports and some extracurricular programs or make students pay.
Just one day before the school year is set to begin and the football coach is going over the plays for the season. On the sidelines, the cheerleaders are practicing their routines. However, it's going to cost each of them $75 to continue participating.
"When it came to the cutting of sports a lot of people had said you can't cut academics without looking at the extracurriculars. I couldn't come up with a sport to cut," said Dennis Smith, the Harrisburg superintendent.
So instead of cutting a sport, the school board approved a pay-to-play program for every student in Harrisburg's high school and middle schools.
"I don't agree with it," said Dave Montfort of Harrisburg. "It should be offered to them but, we have a school system that has a debt that's incredible. You have to do what you have to do."
There is a $300 cap for families with kids who participate in more than one sport. Yet, the pay-to-play program still won't pay for everything.
"I know some people think that the gate receipts we get pay for the sports. They do not. This will help contribute, but it's not going to pay for the full sports, so the school district still has to put in money to maintain these sports," Smith said.
The fee also applies to students in band and the scholastic bowl. They must pay the fee before the first event.
At least one other southern Illinois school introduced a pay-to-play plan when they were short of money.
In 2004 the Trico school district began pay-to-play.