Billboard Ads Gain Appeal As Athletic Fees Soar

Massachusetts – (WBZ) BOSTON Playing sports can be a big part of a kid’s high school experience. But it’s an experience that’s becoming too expensive for many families in Massachusetts. “Pay to play” policies in local schools are costing more than just money. In Saugus, athletic fees are rising and can hit $350 per player per sport. “It’s hard, it’s very hard. I know parents that have four children, single parents,” said one resident. “I mean, it’s impossible.” Joe Diorio is the principal of Saugus High School. He said he can’t keep the athletic program afloat without the fees. “We had a budget cut of approximately $3 million,” he said. Even though Saugus, like most communities, will waive the fee based on a family’s income, Diorio said he’s worried. “There are kids that have hardship cases that are afraid to come forward and just don’t participate,” he said. The story is the same across Massachusetts. In Arlington, fees can reach $350. Towns now charge athletic fees as low as $10 in a few communities to a high of $1,600. And the trend is up. “That’s why we’re responding because we feel like it’s getting to the point where it can be prohibitive for a family with multiple children,” said Franklin Schools Superintendent Wayne Ogden. In Franklin, they’re looking at selling advertising on a field as a way of limiting their fees, which already stand at a $125 per sport. “I don’t want this field decorated with advertising billboards really, but if that’s the step that we have to take to protect programs and kids, then I’m willing to make that compromise,” Ogden said. While some in the communities do not favor ads, educators are concerned about the negatives if some kids are priced out. In some schools, the price of participating in things like band and drama is going up as well. “If the kids aren’t here playing, practicing, they’re out someplace else, more likely to be involved in things we don’t want them to be involved in,” Ogden said. The options aren’t great. Tax increases at the state or local levels are never popular. And schools don’t want to cut other programs in favor of athletics. So for now, “pay to play” is the new school motto.

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