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Keller ISD Puts Pay-to-Play on the Table

By Randy McIlwain
|  Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011  |  Updated 12:40 AM CDT
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Keller ISD is considering fees to participate in athletics and fine arts to help offset expected state funding cuts.

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com

Keller ISD is considering fees to participate in athletics and fine arts to help offset expected state funding cuts.

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The Keller Independent School District is considering charging fees to participate in athletics and fine arts to help offset expected state funding cuts.

The district estimates that it will face a shortfall of between $16 million and $38 million.

The state grappling with a revenue shortfall that could reach $27 billion when taking population growth and cost increases into account.

"You can raise, in a district this size, between $300,000 to $500,000 per year in pay-for-play," said Bob Dejonge, the district's athletic director. "You can charge per athlete, or you could charge per sport."

Keller ISD officials say the idea is one of many things the district is discussing as all of its departments evaluate how they can raise revenue and trim costs.

The district has an annual athletic budget of $2.1 million for all of its sports teams in grades seven through 12. Its athletic programs generate about $1.3 million per year in revenue.

Parent Robert Taliaferro, whose three sons participate in six different sports, said he was concerned the district would charge per sport.

"It could be devastating," he said. "We're already buying shoes and clothes and shirts and hats and baseball -- we're buying bats and gloves."

Part of the discussions around the pay-for-play idea include granting waivers for student athletes who are on the school’s reduced lunch program and for families with more than two children in the school district.

Dejonge said pay-to-play could have a downside -- fewer students participating in athletics and fine arts.

It could also mean parents would have less money to spend on booster clubs, fundraisers and concessions at games.

But Dejonge said sports could be the one option that ultimately makes money for schools in the current economy because they often galvanize communities.

"It's kind of sad, but you don't have a crowd watching an English class," he said. "You have 10,000 watching 200 band students and 25 cheerleaders and the drill team and the football team, and it's a community event."

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