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The Middleton School District has been embroiled in a lot of drama the past couple years.

Heck, the city of Middleton has had its share of issues too. It’s as if this Treasure Valley bedroom community has put up signs at its borders asking people to stay out.

So when my editor notified me Monday that the Middleton School District was considering a pay-to-play model it got my hackles up. Especially as I looked closer at the numbers.

I applaud the school district for tabling the proposal Wednesday after much feedback from its patrons.

It’s downright silly to ask student-athletes to pay for coaches stipends. I can see requiring a modest fee to help cover the cost of gas for the big yellow buses. But to pay coaches salaries. Give me a break.

Sure taxpayers essentially pay teachers salaries. But either the state or the local districts must come up with a way to cover the cost for athletics. It’s an essential part of education.

Now Middleton isn’t the first district in Idaho to consider a pay-to-play concept. But this was never going to work with the price tags attached to the specific sports. Asking the family of a student-athlete to pay as much as $550 to play one sport is ludicrous.

Talk about putting a wet rag on participation. How can you ask an athlete who very well may not play much to pay the same freight as one who may never sit on the bench?

I understand the district is facing a sizable financial shortfall – especially if the third try for a supplemental levy isn’t passed by patrons in late August. But holding student-athletes up as hostages – pass the levy or they will pay – is not the best for kids.

If a district is going to put such a policy in place, all students should pay the same. Why should it cost less to do track and more to play basketball?

Middleton put out a press release Wednesday.

“After a long and anguished discussion, fed by more than 70 emails from Middleton patrons, the Board of Trustees delayed a decision on a pay-to-play proposal for student athletes,” the release stated.

I suspect had Middleton not done the prudent thing and pulled the proposal back, the board was facing even stronger push back.

The superintendent has directed staff to come up with a plan that is similar to West Ada School District’s policy that charges students $110 per sport and waives the fee for a third sport for multiple sport athletes.

The West Ada plan makes more sense. However, I even have issues with it. The district will open its sixth high school next fall and there’s talk, with the growth that is seemingly going on at a sprinter’s pace, a seventh high school will be needed in time. West Ada needs to figure out to offer sports without putting a pay-to-play burden on its students.

If the third attempt at passing a levy fails in Middleton, here’s what could happen – families will move and take their student-athletes elsewhere.

And since school funding is based on the number of students in classrooms, that will have an impact longterm.

The drama isn’t over. But at least for now, Middleton did the wise thing.

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