Pay Up to Play On?

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Of the 24 Central Ohio districts that Columbus Parent surveyed, only three - Columbus City, Delaware City and Gahanna-Jefferson - had no PTP fees during the 2010-2011 school year. But that number will drop to two when Gahanna-Jefferson starts charging $200 per sport for the 2011-2012 school year.

However, while districts that charge hundreds of dollars for students to play sports garner a lot of attention in the media, the fact is that 54 percent of the districts surveyed by Parent charge less than $100 per sport. Another 33 percent charge between $100 and $200.

Only three districts in Central Ohio - Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, and Big Walnut - charge more than $200, although that will change for the 2011-2012 school year when Big Walnut reduces its fees to $150. Pickerington is set to increase its fees from $210 to $500.

According to Tim Stried, a spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), PTP fees are "an unfortunate reality." OHSAA represents more than 800 public and private high schools in Ohio.

"We wish that no schools were forced to go to a PTP program," said Stried. "However, we try to make sure people know that even if a school does have PTP fees, those fees are usually much lower than what it costs to play club sports."

Stried said the immediate impact of PTP fees is a higher risk that athlete numbers will decrease in schools. But, as of now, that hasn't been the case in Ohio, he said. OHSAA statistics indicated that families seem to be finding a way to pay the fees.

Another concern is a decrease in the level and quality of play on the field. Although Stried hasn't seen that happen yet, he warns that it could, "five to 10 years down the road."

PTP fees are a sensitive subject with school districts. Westerville, Pickerington and Reynoldsburg schools declined to comment for this article. Even some parents who were contacted did not want to comment publicly on the topic. But no one denies it's a struggle to provide quality academics with dwindling funds. As state allocations for schools are decreasing and many communities are voting against school levies, districts have to make tough choices about how to spend the money they do have.

After its school levy was voted down in May, Canal Winchester Local Schools announced that it will increase its PTP fees from $140 to $300 for the 2011-2012 school year. According to athletic director Kent Riggs, the district is anticipating a 25 percent reduction in participation.

"We're concerned that multi-sport kids will drop off and that we will lose depth in our programs," he said. "We're disappointed that it has come to this because our goal is to have as many kids as possible participate in sports, but we have to make the books balance."

The district is hoping to put another levy on the ballot in November.

So what does this all boil down to for families? Grace Wentzel of Canal Winchester said she will pay the district's $300 fee so that her daughter, a junior, can play softball.

"The fees are going to be difficult for many families in our district," said Wentzel. "It is likely that most programs will lose talented athletes. Maybe some people think kids can do without athletics, but participating in school sports is much bigger than the competition. It builds character, encourages good sportsmanship and work ethic, and instills discipline and a desire to be the best."

T.J. and Julie Harper, also of Canal Winchester, have three kids, all of whom play sports. They, too, will pay the fees in the fall. Mr. Harper said, while his family was disappointed with the decision to raise the PTP fees, "We understand it is necessary to preserve funds for education, which is our priority. We value the sports experience as a way of rounding our kids' education, so we see the PTP fees as an investment."

The cost of PTP

2010-11 high-school fees at Central Ohio districts

Bexley: $50

Big Walnut: $300

(dropping to $150 in 2011-12)

Buckeye Valley: $75

Canal Winchester: $140

(increasing to $300)

Columbus City: $0

Delaware: $0

Dublin: $50-$75

Gahanna-Jefferson: $0

(increasing to $200)

Grandview Heights: $80

Groveport Madison: $75

Hilliard: $65

Lancaster: $100

Marysville: $150

Mt. Vernon: $25

New Albany: $50

Newark: $200

Olentangy: $75

Pickerington: $210

(increasing to $500)

Reynoldsburg: $240

Southwest Licking: $200

South-Western: $150

Upper Arlington: $85

Westerville: $100

Worthington: $135