Skip to Navigation Skip to Main Content
Staff Photographer

Denton-area schools mull latest buzz over some districts being pay-to-play

Lake Dallas football coach Michael Young knows of several players on his roster who struggle to pay for lunch each day at school. Some years, that list can get pretty long.

That reality gave him and other Denton-area coaches and athletic directors pause this week as they considered the possibility that a growing pay-to-play movement for extracurricular activities could one day become more prevalent among local school districts.

"I heard about [pay-to-play] 17 or 18 years ago. Those conversations come and go," Young said. "With our kids, we are very frugal. We try to alleviate cost as much as possible.

"The last thing you want is kids feeling like they can't afford to play."

The Frisco school board approved this week a student fee to play sports and participate in other extracurricular activities as part of its $473.5 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, according to The Dallas Morning News. Frisco will charge $100 for middle school students and $200 for high school students.

The institution of the fees is a result of the state's reduction in funding combined with Frisco ISD voters rejecting a tax rate increase last August.

Frisco, which has nine high schools, is not alone. Coppell and Highland Park are among other school districts that have similar systems. The News said districts like Southlake Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville and Plano also have charged participation fees.

Argyle is the only local school district among seven surveyed by the Denton Record-Chronicle that has a pay-to-play structure. Argyle ISD charges $75 per student or $150 per family per year for unlimited access to UIL athletics and extracurricular activities such as band, choir and theater.

Argyle generated $43,675 in revenue this past school year from those fees, which offset growing costs, including those associated with transportation and overnight travel to events.

"It's a policy that's been in place for many years here, and it's been a positive situation," Argyle Superintendent Telena Wright said. "There aren't any students or parents who object to the fee."

While Argyle appears to be the only district in the Denton area with such a fee, some school districts see it as a sign of things to come. Krum football coach and athletic director Gary Robinson was an assistant at Coppell for 12 years before eventually coming to Krum.

He admitted that having something similar at Krum is a possibility.

"We aren't right now, but I think eventually it will affect everybody," Robinson said. "We had it at Coppell and it wasn't a problem. It's something that's been on my mind as an athletic director."

Others don't believe it's a good idea to charge fees for extracurricular activities. Denton has four UIL high schools and no plans to add a fee.

"The financial situation at every school district causes them to do different things," Denton school district athletic director Joey Florence said. "I'd hate to see it because we have kids who can't afford to pay those fees. I think our parents pay enough in taxes. We offer all kinds of programs, and there's a reason we offer those.

"Most people will tell you, those kids who are involved in extracurricular activities, their GPA is often higher than those that don't. People recognize that, and I think most communities are willing to spend that money because the return is well worth it."

Sanger football coach Cole Ford, Ponder athletic director Jude Stanley and Pilot Point athletic director Danny David all said a fee-based structure does not fit their small school districts, and in some cases hasn't even been discussed.

"I don't believe you can do something like that in a rural area like what we have," David said. "That's not to say it couldn't happen, but it could also eliminate some kids from playing. You charge $100, but for some people $100 is like $1,000.

"I'd rather cut sports that have little participation than go that route."

Lake Dallas officials agree, and their hope is that nothing forces them to go a different route.

"I believe we talked about [pay-to-play] five or six years ago, but we shot it down. We want all our kids to have the opportunity to play," Lake Dallas athletic director Scott Head said. "Lord knows we could use the money, and if state cuts continue, then I guess we'd have to look at it. But it won't happen while I'm here. I'll fight it."

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.