April 21, 2014

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State lottery to foot bill for schools’ spelling bee participation

The Ohio Lottery is once again supporting local schools that participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The lottery announced in 2012 that it would drop funding the more than $170,000 that went toward the $115 per-school fees to participate in the event. However, local organizers learned this week the funding was being reinstated.

Jim Hartline, project coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Lorain County, said he got a voice mail announcing the news.

“I have no idea why they reversed their decision,” he said Thursday. “They claimed they could not afford to do it when they made the decision last summer. Maybe they were getting checked from people who know every year they are making more and more money.”

Hartline said Scripps should notify schools by email today with additional information. But it looks like all schools that want to participate will not have to pay the fee, and those that have paid the registration fee will be reimbursed by the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Registration at spellingbee.com will also stay open until the end of January to give schools additional time to sign up.

“We had about 10 fewer schools register, and I can only imagine it’s because of the money,” said Hartline, who oversees running the county spelling bee. “I knew this would hurt enrollment. Schools don’t have this money lying around.”

Danielle Frizzi-Babb, lottery spokeswoman, said a new agreement was reached with Scripps last month.

“We are providing up to $180,000 for enrollment fees,” Frizzi-Babb said in an email. “It will cover the fees entirely for each Ohio school that enrolls with Scripps.”

The Ohio Lottery took over as sponsor of the spelling bee in 2008.

Hartline said the total cost to put on the bees in Lorain County is close to $10,000, with the center absorbing much of the cost. While the Ohio Lottery picks up school registration fees, the center pays the $1,000 enrollment for the national bee and $7,000 to $8,000 to run the local bee. The center covers the $3,000 to $4,000 cost of sending the local bee winner and a parent to Washington, D.C., for the national bee.

About 100 seventh- and eighth-graders participate in the local bee annually.

This year, the local bee will start March 1 with the west schools at Amherst Junior High School, continue March 8 with the east schools at Avon Heritage North Elementary and the final bee will be March 15 at Midview West Elementary.

The local champion will go to the national bee and compete May 30 and 31 in Washington, D.C.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.