Berlin Board of Ed Discusses Possibility of Pay to Play

The Berlin Board of Education (BOE) voted for one of its subcommittees to continue exploring the possibility of making public school students pay to participate in school athletics on Tuesday.

The move comes as the town tries to prepare for what could be steep state budget cuts because the state legislature still has not finalized a state budget.

Members of the Berlin BOE say discussions about “pay to participate” sports are still in a preliminary phase and no final decision has been made. But some parents at the board’s meeting on Tuesday are upset that the idea is something that is even being considered.

"I’m not into political maneuvering. I’m into let’s see what’s realistic, let’s look at the numbers. Some of our own representatives taking way too long to do what we need to do to move forward," David Evans, parent of a Berlin High student on the swim team, said. Evans is also the chair of the Town Council’s budget committee.

Board of Education members tell NBC Connecticut that they’re having discussions and considering pay to play sports as a preemptive measure in case the cuts that come down from the state are drastic.

"Just like anything else in life, a failure to plan is a plan to fail," board member Tim Oakes said. "It certainly puts us in a very difficult position because we’re having to start to make choices for the future which we may never act on." 

Athletic programs make up about one million dollars in Berlin’s $43 million budget. The board said eliminating the school district’s responsibility for those costs could create a savings if there is a major loss of funding from the state.

But the coach of Berlin High’s dive team worries that if the idea becomes reality athletics will be out of reach for some students.

"I just feel that there will be some kids that will leave out of the picture and there will be some kids who won’t be able to participate in sport when it is a part of a whole child and their education," Jan Zagorski said.

The board’s Education Resources Committee will now discuss this idea further and report back to the full board no later than their Jan. 8 meeting.

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