As public schools around the country cope with deep funding cuts, more are imposing fees for supplemental materials and for specialized programs, activities and classes.
AJC reporter Daarel Burnette is looking at the fees charged for school sports.
“I’m looking for parents in the Atlanta area to talk to me about any public school fees they’ve incurred this year for school sports. You can reach me at 404-526-5634 or email me. ”
Public-school administrators say the fees—some of which are waived for low-income families—allow them to continue to offer specialty classes and activities that would otherwise fall to the budget ax. Some parents support that approach, saying they’d rather pay for honors physics or drama than see those opportunities eliminated altogether. Some educators, too, argue that fees are good public policy. In a time of fiscal austerity, they say it’s not fair to ask taxpayers to fund an all-inclusive education that offers Advanced Placement Art History, junior varsity golf and fourth-year German with little regard for the cost.
Nationally, district after district has eliminated or cut enrichment programs for gifted students, help for struggling readers, advanced math and science courses, music, art, foreign languages, drama, sports. Some have tried asking local residents to approve higher taxes, only to be shot down at the polls. So administrators say fees are the only way to stave off even more drastic cuts.
“Things are getting tighter,” said Collene Van Noord, superintendent of the Palmyra Area School District in southeast Pennsylvania, which recently began charging $20 lab fees for many science, art and music courses. “If we can pass on the added costs for some of our more expensive courses to direct users, it seems more fair than to pass them on to the entire community” in the form of tax hikes, she said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog