What is the basis for student fees in public schools K-12?

I got no problem paying the fees. I think for both of my kids (one in 4th and one in K) the student fees will total about $140 for the coming school year.

These fees are for:
[li]art fees[/li][li]locker fees[/li][li]ID fees[/li][li]book fees[/li][li]musical instrument fees[/li][li]science lab fees[/li][li]planner fees[/li][li]etc.[/li][/ul]

I’m sure the amount of fees and what they are for differs from school district to school district.

I don’t recall my parents paying any fees when I went to public school in Texas over 30+ years ago.

So when did the concept of instituting various fees picked up by the families, as opposed to coming from the district budget? Have these fees ever been challenged in courts as being counter to free public education?

As I mentioned at the beginning, I got no problem paying the fees, but I could see that this could be burdensome for many families. Or do these fees get waived for those families that meet certain income criteria, in the same way that free or reduced lunch is implemented?

Where are you located? I’ve never heard of separate fees for public education. I certainly never paid fees for my son’s schooling (California, 1988-1999). Not that I would have been the least bit reluctant to pay such fees. My wife was a teacher and I know first hand the ridiculous financial constraints that schools work under. Most years, she had to buy classroom supplies from her own pocket.


when I went to school it was an out of city limits school district and they charged 25.00 book fees and that was 1985/6

Now when I went to hs in ca you were supposed to buy a 10.00 shop card for art and crafting classes like ceramics and woodshop

Here in the Boston area it is pretty common to have ‘activity fees’ - the students’ family pays for activities outside the educational curriculum; sports in particular. I haven’t heard of it being challenged in court.

Back when I went to public elementary and middle school in Texas (30-some years ago), pretty much EVERYTHING was provided.

I mean, they issued us an entire football uniform- jockstraps, socks, pants, pads, shirts, helmets, shorts, etc… From what I understand, at the high school level, they even washed them as well.

The only thing I can recall there even being anything that resembled a fee for was in shop class, each student had a sort of budget, and your projects had to fit within that budget, or you could pay ahead of time. So if you wanted to make every single wood shop project out of walnut, you’d have to cough up a few bucks to cover the difference, but if you mixed up your walnut with some oak or birch, you were fine.

Books were always free, as were lockers, art supplies, etc…

When I went to public elementary school in Texas – more than 50 years ago – we didn’t pay an art fee, but we had to buy many of our own supplies. When I took violin in school, we had to pay an instrument fee (aka “rental”)

Never a book fee, though. That cuts deeply into the definition of what a “free public education” actually is.

I suspect if you refused to pay the fee they wouldn’t kick your kid out or prevent them from participating, and if you claimed that you were poor they wouldn’t even give you dirty looks whenever you came on campus.

This will vary by the district and the event. You most certainly are not going to be allowed to join the cheer or the dance team if you can’t pay the fees, and those are likely $500-$1000. That covers uniforms and camp. Some teams may have scholarships for girls that can’t afford it, but it’s a real barrier to entry at others.

In Texas events that fall under UIL, our state-wide competitive sports/music/drama/academic organization (it’s weird) have really strict requirements about who can pay for what. Outside of UIL, it’s pretty flexible. I do think a school has to provide a path to graduation without fees, but I think as long as SOME class offers an art credit for free, you can have a fee for other courses.

And of course lots and lots of districts send home supply lists that include dry erase markers and tissue–things for classroom use. Those can be a real burden on people.

I graduated 35+ years ago, and my parents paid school fees. Adjusted for inflation probably pretty close to what I pay for my kids. And we had to pay for materials used in shop class (unless we used our own).

Better students/parents than teachers though, if it isn’t covered by the district. Buying one box of kleenex or 4-5 dry-erase markers is a lot less of a burden on average to the parents of a child than it is for one teacher to buy all that crap for an entire school year for a classroom. (you know that though)

I still think the district ought to cover things like tissues; that’s more of a health issue than anything else, and dry-erase markers could have a negotiated rate with the manufacturer for a state-wide price that districts could avail themselves of. If nothing else, they ought to do that for teachers anyway, rather than having them go pay retail at Office Depot or Costco or wherever.

The basis is your local school district not collecting enough taxes to pay for those things. For optional activities like after school activities it makes some sense. For anything required as part of the education it’s just a way of shifting costs to the student instead of spreading them among the community.

I went to public high school in the 60s. We had fees, but we also bought our books. We didn’t have a lot of money, and it was a hardship.

You could sell them back at the end of the year, but not for much.

Was that paid for out of district funds, or by donations? My HS football team had all of that (right down to the jockstraps), but it was paid for by booster club fundraising & private donations.

In the UK, there are strict regulations about what a state school can charge for. For example, books and art materials would be free, but uniforms (most of them have uniforms) and gym kit would be provided by parents. School trips are always charged for, but there is also a fund to cover those who can’t (or won’t) pay. Many parents (as we did) pay more than we are asked for to help towards the cost of the poorer students.

All children used to be offered a free lunch, but that was discontinued back in the 80s. When I went to school, we were given a third of a pint of milk in morning break - that also stopped.

Schools are always trying to get cash from parents and the wider community. I was a school governor and usually had to stump up for raffle prizes etc.

I pay at least 4 different taxes for school plus school fees. These are mandatory fees for supplies by grade level, not for optional participation things. Of course, you also get a very detailed school shopping list every year with very specific types and quantities of supplies your child must bring to school on day 1. When/where I grew up I believe property taxes covered public school completely. On some level it makes sense that the users of the services pay some fees directly, but it doesn’t make sense to me that we have so many different taxes.

District funds. It was middle school, and there wasn’t a booster club or anything like that.

It wasn’t high-tech gear by any means, but it was provided. We got to keep the socks and jocks at the end too.

The district here went “pay to play” for sports right after we moved here, and most parents are still bitching about it. There aren’t fees for most academic/indoor things; those simply got dropped or are sponsored by a local business or the like. Try to get art, music and other programs funded and they just laugh.

But holy cow, charge $100 for a season of school soccer (which is about 2/3 the total per-player cost) and you’d think we were living in a jackbooted ghetto.

Not that I’m aware of and for good reason. There is no Federal Constitution right to a free education. States may have it as a right so YMMV. The key issue in Brown was while there is no right to a free public education, if a state chooses to provide one, it is a property right and as such cannot be denied without due process.

Where did you go? There were no fees in New York. I don’t even recall a fee for local school trips, like to the Stock Exchange. An overnight trip that was planned but never happened had one.
And we never bought books. There were book rooms with stacks of books handed out each year to students, and returned at the end of the year.

A lot more fees in California now than in New York when I was young. No fees in our district in NJ 20 years ago, but our town always approved school taxes. Things are tight today. I was on the site council of our kids high school, and we spent any spare money on paper towels for the bathrooms to make sure it didn’t go to waste.