The kids are back in school. And you've probably shelled out for pencil cases, notebooks, a new backpack—and AP French.
"Free public education" clauses are written into state constitutions nationwide. Yet at many public schools around the country it has become anything but. Schools are charging parents for programs and items that have traditionally come standard—including fees for course supplies, school-run extracurricular activities, transportation and even basic registration fees.
...School boards do typically require the caveat that mandatory fees can be waived for students who show financial need. But Janis Sartucci, whose two children attended the Montgomery County, Md., public schools in suburban Washington, says that by forcing parents to reveal their financial status, such waivers miss the point. "Whether I can afford [a fee] or not is not the issue," she says. "It's that I shouldn't have to pay it."
Ms. Sartucci says she typically paid $200 to $300 in annual fees for textbooks, lab fees, calculators and other school supplies for her two children.
Many other fees are for activities that are considered optional. But critics say they are things that are critical to a well-rounded school experience—not to mention a competitive college application.
"Adolescents require a certain amount of feeling like they're part of a cohort," says parent Elise Cohen. Plus, "college entry is often predicated on a series of extracurriculars and students eventually showing leadership in them."
Ms. Cohen says she paid annual fees for technology, art classes and extracurriculars ranging from $35 to $100 for each of her three public-school-educated children, in addition to a one-time $65 graduation fee for the two who have already graduated...
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Wall Street Journal By LINDSAY GELLMAN