'Pay-to-Participate' fee goes away for Brevard high school sports

School board's change of heart allows more participation

Headline Goes Here Florida Today

High school athletes will not have to pay to play sports next season.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - The Brevard School Board approved a new budget plan for the 2013-14 academic year that will not include a Pay-to-Participate fee.

After recommending to institute Pay-to-Participate fees for Brevard County public high school athletes beginning in the coming school year, the board voted last week to reduce its budget by only $25 million, not the $30 million previously expected, reports Local 6 News partner Florida Today. That saved 129 jobs and allowed Pay-to-Participate to be eliminated, for now.

Students were expected to be charged $100 to play one sport next year and an additional $50 to play more than one sport. Costs were to be lower for students on free and reduced lunch plans. The money raised was expected to bring about $419,000 into the school system's budget.

"Certainly, for the kids it will be a lot easier, particularly for the north-area kids that are on free and reduced lunch," Astronaut High athletic director Cheryl Shivel said. "I think it would have hurt some programs."

Rockledge High track and field coach Beth Scarborough called the late change a good thing for equity.

"It's going to get more kids to show up. If I've got to pay $100 or $150, then I'm not going to try a sport," she said. "I'm happy for everybody concerned. I think it's going to be a fairer playing field. There are some schools that have more ‘haves' than others."

Fees were to be paid in advance of each sports season, and some coaches and athletic directors were concerned the costs might discourage some students from joining teams. Shivel said she and her coaches are already "pounding the hallways trying to find kids" to play sports, even with no fees.

Heritage High wrestling coach Kevin Robinson said his sport is one of those that depends on first-time participants who might not try a sport they don't already enjoy if it costs them money.

"We get a lot of those guys — I would say 90 percent of the people that we get in this county for wrestling — who don't start until the ninth grade. They want to try it out. That's what a lot of the coaches rely on," Robinson said. "I think this Pay-to-Participate would have eliminated that whole ‘giving-it-a-chance' thing."

Eau Gallie bowling coach Steve Vilgats said he understood the need to offset costs, but he added athletes already have expenses for high school sports.

"Your kids are in financial need with fundraisers, buying uniforms, buying equipment," he said. "For a kid to play any sport, it's probably $200 or $300. I'm actually very happy there is no Pay-to-Participate this year."

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