Letter-to-the-Editor: Let’s Talk About School Fees

Posted on September 21, 2016

Chuck Hughes, Board of Education, Seat 5

♦ Everything seems to have a fee attached to it today, from checking out a book with your library card to convenient 2 hour parking downtown. Our school system is no exception.
Fees range from entry to a sporting event to school-ground parking, to uniforms, to use of lap-tops and iPads. I am sure fees exist that I do not even know about.
Granted, the fees may seem marginal when you consider the costs of the events and technology tools, however marginal is relative. It might be marginal to a family with one child
but not so much with a family of two or three students or a family struggling from week to week to put food on their table.

High School Parking Fees: Parking fees are standard throughout our six high schools. I have no argument against these fees. If you can afford a car for your child, an annual
$50 parking fee is likely to be pretty manageable. After all, driving to school is a privilege, not a constitutional right. Although student parking fees ($20,176 in 2014-2015 school year
and $20,259 in 2015-2016) are hardly enough to stripe a couple of parking lots, one would think that all of the parking fee would go towards the upkeep of the parking lots, but that is
not necessarily the case. There is inconsistency in how these fees are utilized from one school to the next. Nor does the entire fee go to the school that raised the revenue. In fact
that school gets only $35 of each $50 with the remaining $15 spread through the district proper. Although the parking revenue is a pittance in terms of what it costs to maintain paving
and stripping of each lot, I believe the entire fee should go to parking lot up keep at the specific school that raised the revenue and not to other extraneous kettles within the school.
After all, it is a Parking Lot Fee.

Marching Band/Cheer Leaders Uniform Fees: This one really gets under my skin. I believe the school system should pay for the uniforms of all students who practice and
contribute to the game just as they do for the athletes who play. After all, the marching bands and cheer leaders are essential elements of our major sporting events. Fees for cheerleader
uniforms and marching bands range from $50 to $250 per member, depending on the high school. Granted, the band gets far more than the fee covers when you consider the cost of instruments,
uniforms, travel, fees to enter competitions, etc. So to some, $250 might seem to be a real bargain. However, what if you have two or three children participating in high school events?
Then the $250 becomes $500 or more for the year. For many families, $250 is a strain on the family budget. For some, it is an impossible expenditure. Although our booster clubs do a
great job of bringing in supportive dollars to cover many of these expenses, there is no guarantee that all fees and uniforms for students who dedicate time and energy to our events will be covered.

Fees for 1:1 IT Use: IT 1:1 (computer fees) seem to grow exponentially. This is due to damage and aging each year as well as new software that enhances education.
The following are changes that I will bring to the board for consideration:

* All fees raised under the guise of a project must go to that project, not siphoned off to unrelated projects.

* Every student who dedicates time and energy to our programs should have supplements beyond what booster clubs raise so that all of their expenses are covered including uniforms and equipment repair.

* The Board of Education should have oversight over revenues raised by booster clubs under our school banners.

* Event fees should be standard at all schools.

* We must be diligent in balancing the IT 1:1 fee with actual replacement costs. This is a real balancing act.

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