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Ann Romney Gives Nod to Pay-to-Play Sports in Convention Speech

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For those tracking K-12 education references at the Republican National Convention, first lady hopeful Ann Romney made a reference to pay-to-play school sports fees in her address Tuesday night.

"We don't want easy," Mrs. Romney said. "But these last few years have been harder than they needed to be. It's all the little things—that price at the pump you just can't believe, the grocery bills that just get bigger, all those things that used to be free, like school sports, are now one more bill to pay. It's all the little things that pile up to become big things."

In recent years, as school budgets have been slashed, a number of districts have started charging participation fees for student-athletes to keep their sports programs afloat. While certain districts have found creative ways around implementing the pay-to-play fees—including one Mich. district that was able to get a professional football player to cover the fees—others haven't been so lucky.

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As Bob Cook of Forbes recently noted, "pay-to-play is moving from a temporary stopgap to a permanent part of school financing."

Notably, however, students in one Michigan district won't be charged pay-to-play fees any longer, after the Chelsea school board voted 4-1 on Monday to eliminate the fees, according to AnnArbor.com. The fees generated roughly $50,000-$60,000 in annual revenue for the district, the website reports, having formerly charged high school students a flat rate of $100 and middle school students $25.

Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have given more teeth to the enforcement of a statewide ban on charging fees for extracurricular activities. The state constitution already bans pay-to-play fees, but the vetoed bill would have allowed the state superintendent of public instruction to withhold 1 percent of all funding for administrative costs from districts found charging participation fees.

Photo: Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, waves as she walks up to the podium during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

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