An Ohio state senator has conducted informal public hearings across Ohio on co-curricular school activities as it relates to pay-to-participate fees, student athlete health concerns and school start dates.
State Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, has already conducted hearings in Columbus and Findlay. The former educator and coach will continue the hearings in Cleveland and Dayton this month.
“Co-curricular activities are important to the educational and social development of our young people and often give them a pathway to thrive and succeed at school,” he said. “Requiring outrageous fees to participate limits students who might not be afforded those opportunities otherwise.”
The Westerville City School District near Columbus charges student athletes $150 for the first sport, $75 for the second sport with the third sport for free.
On the other hand, Crawford County school districts do not charge athletes participation fees but have done so in the past.
“We hope never have to do that (again),” said Jay Zeiter, Buckeye Central athletic director. “It deals with the health of the financial situation of your school district.”
Galion started the practice back in 2001, its Athletic Director Kyle Baughn said, before it was discontinued a few years later. The reason behind the fee was because athletic cost were so high and participation was down.
“A lot of our kids can’t afford to pay,” he said.
Baughn said the schools rely heavily on ticket revenue from the games to help with costs including paying officials, coaching contracts, equipment and uniforms. Baughn said levies no longer have an impact on whether participation fees are implemented.
In 2013, the Ohio High School Athletic Association lessened the penalty for student transfers, requiring them to sit out a season instead of a full year.
“You can’t afford to lose those kids,” Baughn said.
But it helped changed the stigmatic perception that school districts cut athletics first if levies fail at the polls, he said.
Voters approved earlier this month the 7.73 mill renewal levy for the Galion City School District by a 62% to 38% margin Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“That’s why passing the renewal levy was so huge,” he said. “We’re grateful for that opportunity to service our kids.”
Bucyrus also used to charge a $60 pay-to-participate fee before it was discontinued in 2012.
“It was an extreme hardship for quite a few athletes,” said Rick Rawson, Bucyrus athletic director.
Students that participate in sports and other co-curricular activities are still required to pay $30 for an initial drug test, he said.
Hite will discuss with other members of the legislature about the the costs of co-curricular school activities, hear from interested parties and experts on the topics of youth concussions and sudden cardiac arrest.
His next informal hearing will take place at Lorain County Community College, 1005 North Abbe Road, in Elyria from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 19. Another hearing will take place at Salvation Army Kroc Community Center, 1000 North Keowee Street, in Dayton, from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 23.
For more information, contact Hite’s office at 614-466-8150 or Hite@OhioSenate.gov.