“Pay to Play” School Sports Policies Could Reduce Physical Activity by Students

Faculty; Public Health; Research

As public schools face budget crunches, many districts are requiring students to pay fees to participate in sports programs. Eighteen states have laws guiding those policies, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Amy Eyler
Amy Eyler

All but one of those states allowed fees, with most giving authority to local school boards to set and collect them. The laws in nine states have provisions for a waiver program for students who cannot pay the fees, although they do not all mandate the existence of these waivers.

The impact of fees and whether the waivers are being implemented is not known, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Amy Eyler, Associate Professor at the Brown School and Deputy Director of the school’s Prevention Research Center. What is known is the benefit that sports can have on student development.

“Risky behavior is reduced, attendance is improved and leadership skills are enhanced,” she said. “The fees are really putting children at a disadvantage and taking away an essential opportunity to be physically active.”

The study was published June 7 in the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice. Read more.