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Public School Fees Can Add Up, Limit Access to Education, Report Finds

By Corey Mitchell — March 06, 2017 1 min read
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A new Louisiana Department of Education report urges schools in the Bayou State to exercise “extreme caution’ when students’ charging fees for supplies and activities because the costs could hinder “equitable access to a quality education.”

The online survey of Louisiana school districts and charter schools, in which 99 percent of local education agencies responded, found that all schools charged students for something, with the costs ranging from $95 for school supplies to $10 for locker fees. Some districts charge fees for parking, registration, and student identification cards.

About 10 percent of the survey respondents indicated that students unable to pay would be ineligible for certain services or activities and some of the fees are punitive.

One percent of respondents reported charging a fee for being late or tardy, while two districts assess fees for cellphone violations, according to the report. One of those districts, which was not identified in the report, fines students and parents up to $200 to obtain phones seized by school staff.

The report also detailed policies in other states, including California, where the law prohibits schools from charging any fees for educational activities.

“The assessment of fees to students attending public schools should be addressed with extreme caution in order to provide all students with equitable access to a quality education, particularly in a state whose student body is 71.3 percent economically disadvantaged,” the report concludes.

The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, La., first reported on the survey, which the education department prepared at the request of state lawmakers who wanted to know if fees were “economic barriers” to a quality public education.

According to the survey, nearly 75 percent of the state’s districts charge students for extracurricular activities such as band and math clubs, with the money covering costs tied to membership fees, uniforms, and competition participation.

In most schools, administrators determine the fees, develop rules on how the money is spent, and decide when to grant waivers if a student isn’t able to pay.

Here’s a look at the report.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.