Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

School Fees

My kids attend public school. But our school system, like so many across the country, is suffering from a severe lack of funding. Because of that, teachers have been laid off, class size keeps getting bigger and services are curtailed. Gym? A thing of the past. Music? Art? They have specialists that cover 3 or 4 schools, so that elementary kids get a smattering of each, but nothing like was typical 20 years ago.

To keep the cutbacks to a 'minimum' our school system started charging school fees a few years back. Parents are charged up to a maximum of $1000/family for the fees. That's a whole lot of money for people whose heating bills have risen 444% in the last 10 years, and are expected to double again this year. Although people think everyone that lives in our community is filthy rich, in fact that is very false. 40% of the town population lives in multiple dwelling units, and those aren't fancy schmancy condos for the most part. They are apartments over stores, whole neighborhoods of two and three family houses in sad condition, and many many small apartment buildings. Poverty in our community has grown exponentially in the past 5 years, as the number of families using the local food pantry shown. Lines out the door, people waiting hours in the rain for food. In our 'wealthy' community.

So school fees are painful for a goodly amount of the families that live here. This year's fees have just been announced.

Bus fees-Annual Round Trip $200 per student, maximum family cost $440

Athletic Fees - High School $210 per sport except hocky, $260 hockey fee, maximum family cost $630

Athletic Fees - Middle School $210 per sport, maximum family cost $360

Elementary Music Lessons $75 per semester

Parking Fees - High School $360 per year payable on a semester basis at $180

School Lunch for Type A Meal $3.00 per student elementary, $3.25 per student middle school, $350 high school and adult

Super Cap $1000 maximum family cost, applies to busing and athletic fees only

Fee waivers are available to all qualified cases of financial aid for Music Lessons. Families that qualify for federal free or reduced lunch rates must apply before school year begins.

Now, I don't know about you, but those fees are feeling a little bit high to me. Not that we pay any of them because my kids (who are NOT overweight despite some bitches comment to the contrary) don't do school athletics, nor do they ride the bus to school. One walks both ways every day. I know! Walking. What a concept. The high school is about 1.5 miles from our house. The other kid gets a ride in a bus provided in his IEP. Because he's spe-shul.

We do qualify for the free lunch program, but my kids either take food from home or choose to not eat. The food? Well since the school went all-natural and heart healthy I've heard it's horrible. I wouldn't know. I've never eaten there. All I know is that in our school, a salad does not count under the free lunch program. You have to get the hot entry, and my kids aren't interested in a hot lunch every day.

But I worry a lot about families that can't afford the bus. I've noticed that the traffic at the elementary school 4 houses down from us mostly has parents dropping kids off. Some parents walk their kids, almost all of them drive. At the high school, either the kids drive themselves or get rides. Very few take the bus. Not that many walk, either. Because gas prices have increased so rapidly this summer, more families might opt for the bus, but I imagine more than a few will balk thinking it is so expensive up front. Or don't have the money to write a check that big.

I understand that school fees are a must in this recession. I don't have a problem with them. I do have a problem with the schools not offering financial assistance to those families that can't afford to shell out a thousand bucks just to have their kids participate in sports and ride the bus.

What about your school system? Do you have to pay school fees? Are they similar in cost to our fees?

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OpenID cahwyguy said...

Well, according to my daughter, we don't have a formal fee setup. At least I don't remember any fees from middle school, although we got informally hit up for stuff all the time. So far, no fees yet for high school, but we may learn more during orientation.

[By the way, I"m talking Los Angeles Unified here.]

11/8/08 9:10 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Daniel, I'd be REALLY interested to know if you guys have fees. As a graduate of an LAUSD high school (Taft) I know we didn't have any fees back then. Since my reunion is this weekend and I'm not going to be there (I had NO CLUE that reunions cost hundreds of dollars after you fly across the country) nor is my brother, we can't ask anyone else.

Which high school are you talking about anyhow?

11/8/08 10:35 PM  
OpenID cahwyguy said...

She's going to be at Van Nuys HS (Performing Arts Magnet) -- her home school would have been Granada Hills. I never knew you went to Taft (or were a valley girl). She has some friends that are going to Taft, so we can see what the fees are there. My wife was a Chatsworth grad ('75), I was Palisades ('77).

According to my wife, the only fees she knows (other than school lunch program) is if you have late library books. Various programs will hit up parents (for example, our drama program did encourage us to donate for shows), but I put that in a different category.

By the way, you just triggered one of my peeves: Why is it so hard to tell the school lunch program you aren't interested? They don't provide the instructions on the form, and of course, if I filled in my actual monthly gross income... there's not enough digit space on the form.

11/8/08 10:41 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Our district has a family maximum and families who qualify for free lunch do not have to pay fees. It's a tough one; budget money dwindles, but we (teachers) do not want any kid to suffer.
The kids can't take a salad option on free lunch? That stinks.

12/8/08 9:41 AM  
Blogger BSumner said...

I know that Littleton had fees out the wazoo for just about everything. We're in Clinton now, and there are no basic fees for K-8. not sure about the high school.
The only "fee" is for lunches $2.25, and for any extra field trips (like the washington DC trip) and that is based on the number of students attending and changes every year.

I'm not sure what the high school fees are if there are any.

12/8/08 10:46 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

Wow, that's obscene. I feel lucky, now, we don't have any.

12/8/08 8:22 PM  
Blogger Enna said...

My parents paid 3500 for my school, 8500 for my brother's, and and 5000 for my sister's. That was high school. Grammar was an average of 4000 per kid per year.
Public school was not an option for us, being in the CPS district. There were kids in the 90s in CPS who didn't know how to read in 8th grade., which horrified my parents to no end. Plus there were no guarantees where in the city they would send us, so my parents weren't willing to chance it.

17/8/08 3:39 PM  

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