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Harford School Board Reverses Decision on Pay-to-Play Fee

Students getting free and reduced meals may have been a factor in the decision.

Harris Stadium, Havre de Grace.
Harris Stadium, Havre de Grace.
The "pay-to-play" policy inHarford County Public Schools may have been short-lived.

Effective for the 2013–2014 school year, the Harford County Board of Education instituted a $50 fee for students to participate in sports each season and $25 for extracurricular participation to help fund its budget.

The Harford County Board of Education voted on Monday night to reverse the policy for the upcoming school year. The Aegis reported the 6-4 vote was as follows:
  • Voting to end policy—James Thornton, Joseph Hau, Arthur Kaff, Alysson L. Krchnavy (proposed removing the fee), Nancy Reynolds and student representative Ben Barsam
  • Voting to continue policy—Tom Fitzpatrick, Cassandra Beverley, Robert Frisch and Rick Grambo
When it approved the pay-to-play fees, the school board decided to exempt children in the free and reduced meals program (FARMs) program, in addition to children of teachers and active duty military.

To participate in the FARMs program, a student's family must have an income below $43,568 for a family of four, according to Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan's executive summary, attached to the budget.

The school system received an average of $3,025 per student enrolled in FARMs over the last year, according to Canavan, who said there were 10,970 students in the 37,842-student school system eligible for the program.

Harford County Public Schools experienced a 675-student increase in those participating in FARMs this school year, according to Canavan, at the same time as school system decreased by 26 students.

School board member Frisch said at Monday's meeting that increased participation in FARMs was an "unintended benefit" of the pay-to-pay fees, The Aegis reported.

The pay-to-play fee was instituted to help fund extracurricular programs, including coaches' salaries and transportation, as the school system tried to come up with a way to reconcile a $20.2 million shortfall created by the county's budget, according to Harford County schools.

Removing the fee from next year's budget totaled a decrease of $309,500 in projected revenue, The Aegis reported.

Next, the operating budget proposed at the Jan. 27 Board of Education meeting must go before the county executive for review.

County Executive David Craig told Patch in a previous interview that he had "all kinds of issues" with the pay-to-play fee. "Does this mean in the future they could charge tuition?" he asked.

In April, the school system will seek community input in its revised budget, and in June, it will revise it for the final time based on the county budget.

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Carol February 08, 2014 at 12:51 PM
First.. I whole heartedly agree with David Craig. Also, why if I'm paying a fee for my students to participate do I then have to pay a fee in order to see them play! B.S.!!!
wileyb.1 February 08, 2014 at 01:30 PM
Never understood why kids of teachers and military were exempt from that fee when they obviously have a parent who is GAINFULLY EMPLOYED. That policy was as ridiculous as Congress excluding themselves from Obamacare mandates, and it would only serve to have created conflicts.

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