Archive for Sunday, July 24, 2005

Same old song for school fees

State money won’t help

July 24, 2005

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The state may be sending more funds to Lawrence schools, but that won't lower student fees. Not this year anyway.

"I believe in a free public education system, and this isn't quite free," school board member Craig Grant said. "It's a shame we couldn't get it done this year."

Student fees generate more than $1 million yearly for the school district, according to Supt. Randy Weseman. And Grant and some fellow board members said in the upcoming year they wanted to explore ways to eliminate or roll some fees back.

Meanwhile, many students must pay to ride the school bus, park their cars, use textbooks, play sports, march in the band and take certain courses.

A typical fifth grader who has to pay to ride the bus would pay $352 a year. That's $240 for the bus, $72 for textbook rental, $15 for instructional materials, $10 for technology, and $15 for activity trips.

The fees started three years ago when the district was crunched by reduced state support.

In some cases, the fees staved off program cuts, said Kathy Johnson, the district's finance director. She said some sports would have been cut if not for the fees. Since then, the district has come to depend on the money.


South Junior High School students in the woodwinds section of the school's rehearse band last winter. The district collects more than $1 million in fees from students for participation in certain activities like concert band and welding.

South Junior High School students in the woodwinds section of the school's rehearse band last winter. The district collects more than $1 million in fees from students for participation in certain activities like concert band and welding.

Some families simply don't pay, and their bills are sent to collection agencies. And about 30 percent of students who receive free and reduced priced lunches are eligible for waivers.

The basic cost for an elementary student is $112, which includes fees for textbook rental, instructional materials, technology, and activity transportation. Junior high and high school students pay a base fee of $162.

There are also fees to ride the school bus. The district in 2002 implemented a pay-to-ride system that charges kids who ride the bus and live within 2.5 miles of school. Weseman estimated the pay-to-ride fees generate about $250,000 annually.

In the fall of 2002, ridership dropped from about 2,800 students the previous year to 1,600 students. But those numbers later rebounded and last year about 2,970 students rode buses, said Rick Gammill, the district's director of special operations, transportation and safety.

Kelsey Bowman, a senior at Free State High School, said some of the fees were a pain. She said her mother drives her younger brother one way to cut down on the transportation costs. And she thinks the textbook fee is a bit high.

"You shouldn't have to pay that much money for a textbook if you're going to use it and turn it back in," she said.

The fees are related to the raging debate being haggled over by the Legislature and the state Supreme Court about what is considered a suitable education, said Joe Snyder, Free State principal. The community expects extracurricular activities and sports and others activities to be a part of the school system, he said.

"I think it's what the community expects," he said. "If you didn't have them, you'd have a real outcry."

And some parents say they are willing to pick up the tab.

"I understand that it's a necessary evil," said Tammy Frank, a parent of two students in the Lawrence district. "If it means giving my kids an appropriate education, I'm going to pay it."









Student fees for the Lawrence district

A look at some of the fees Lawrence schools students pay:

Textbook rental - $36 for kindergarten; $72 for grades 1-12 Instructional materials - $7.50 for kindergarten; $15 for grades 1-12 Technology - $10 for grades 1-12 Activity trip transportation - $7.50 for kindergarten; $15 for grades 1-12 Supplemental enrollment - $50 for grades 7-12 Participation (for a sport or activity) - $50 for grades 7-12 Co-curricular (for an activity such as marching band) - $15-$25 for grades 7-12 Pay-to-ride (for students who live within 2.5 miles of the school) - $120 for kindergarten; $240 for grades 1-12 Parking (at high schools and South Junior High School) - $10 Course fees - a range of costs from $5 to about $80 depending on the course

Credit-card and payment plans are available for most fees. Parking fees and activity tickets are not included in payment plans and are expected to be paid at the time of purchase. Pay-to-ride payments must be received by Aug. 8.

Comments

momof3 9 years, 10 months ago

The article stated the base fee for jr. high and high school students was $162.00 But no one ever pays just $162.00. There are fees for every single class. Last year, I paid over $300 for a 9th grader. And while raising fees 3 years ago was a necessary evil, the fees almost tripled. It used to cost $42 to enroll an elementary student. And even though money was cut statewide 3 years ago, not all school districts raised fees. Lawrence seems to be one of the highest in the state. I think the school board needs to cut the fees this year and stop taking advantage of the parents. Yes, the district uses the money from the parents, but they just got additional funds from the state.

usaschools 9 years, 10 months ago

I think the fees should stay until the State adequately finances schools, class sizes are 17 or below for grades KG through 3, and teacher compensation is improved to be at or above surrounding comparable districts.

The increase in fees helped open parents' eyes to the FACT that schools are tremendously underfunded. They need to feel this pain until PARENTS start contacting their legislators and urging them to support school funding! I know many do. However, I wonder how many people who grumble about the fees regularly (or ever) contact their legislators to encourage adequate school funding, or even know if their legislator is an advocate for education?

Momof3, the reason not all school districts raised fees is that smaller districts did not have the financial need to do so! Also, there is a statutory distance beyond which a bussing must be provided. For years, Lawrence bussed children who lived closer than this. This cost millions of dollars per year. The people who use this service are the ones who should pay for it.

The district is not "Taking advantage" of parents. The funds from the state are frankly not intended to decrease the costs to parents. They are intended to improve schools. It is proved that higher salaries help attract and retain better teachers. Fact. It is proven that lower class size KG- 3 improves achievment. Fact. It is proven that teachers need staff development to learn new skills that improve student achievement. Fact. It is just common sense that children need adequate materials in the classrooms. On the other hand, having parents pay less fees will do nothing to improve the schools or the achievement of children.

In many other areas of our government there are fees that are paid by those who use the services. The fees for schools are not that high (look around the nation if you don't believe me). They are a bargain when one considers the quality of the Lawrence Public Schools. Raising the fees truly was a "necessary evil," and that necessity has not gone away. It would be great if the fees could be lowered, but it is not a top priority, nor would it be the wisest first use of the newly appropriated monies.

ballfieldmom 9 years, 10 months ago

To DW - has it ever occurred to you that for some people, especially single moms who miss making the cut for assistance by as little as $15 a year, that these fees are a very real hardship. I know families who have had to leave the Lawrence School. District because they can't afford to have their children attend. Even if the Lawrence School Board cut the fees by only 10% it would be a help.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

How about a sin tax on moving traffic violations after all they can kill or injure someone for life as does alcohol or tobacco??

Speedy funding Sunday, July 24, 2005

To the editor:

The Kansas Legislature doesn't need to raise taxes for school funding. All the state needs to do is place law enforcement officers every mile or two on K-10 and ticket those people who believe the speed limit is 75 mph or, worse yet, 80 mph or more. I'm sure ticketing those who exceed the 70 mph speed limit would truly increase the state's revenue. I strongly agree with Mr. Aday (letter to the editor, July 12). To heck with a "Buffer Zone." I moved to Douglas County one year ago and I am amazed on a daily basis by the lack of respect for the law by fellow drivers. Initially, I thought maybe those lawbreakers were college kids. But after closer inspection, I came to realize that "soccer moms" (with their kids in the car), as well as "40-something" dads are just as guilty of violating the speed limit. With the cost of gas well exceeding $2 a gallon, I would think people would realize they could improve their gas mileage by slowing down. I guess "cheating" just enough not to get caught is the same as stealing just what fits into your pocket so you don't get caught. Speeding is breaking the law, just like stealing.

E. Meyers,

Eudora

Posted by merrill on July 24 at 6:42 a.m. Yes E.Meyers you and I are on the same page. Include an education fee which cannot be forgiven on tickets for speeding $25, running red lights and tailgating $50, DUI $100, DUI which involves injury or death $250. These should apply no matter which law enforcement agency is writing the citation. Those 18 wheelers are dangerous and should be slowed down. Truck drivers many times walk away after an accident involving serious injury or death.

dw 9 years, 10 months ago

How pathetic, the residents of Lawrence are not even willing to pay a couple hundred dollars for their child's education. They would rather the tax payers of this state pay for their education. I attended Catholic schools as a child and my children attend the Lawrence Catholic School. We did not and do not need all these fancy toys Lawrence educators think they need. It is amazing how private schools are able to provide a superior education and do it for a fraction of the money wasted in our public schools. I don't think the Kansas public schools need more funding, they need to learn to live with less. More money is not the answer. Learning to budget your money and live with less is the answer. This comment is from a person who pays for your child's eduction through my tax dollars as well as my own children's education.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

If moving violations could assist in the funding of public education would that not be cool.

Maybe there are more families than you and I know about that cannot afford $200 per child?

It is not a given that private schools do provide a superior education and how do you know it is done at a fraction of the cost? Is the church providing some funding to the school?

We homeschool our children as well as help others in public school educate their children. So many others helped educate myself and my 2 siblings while we attended public school most of whom we never knew. We are forever grateful.

If education went entirely private you better grab your wallet and keep a close eye on those tax dollars. Those corporate welfare private schools could not/would not do it for less as they would be about making money. Life might not be so bad after all.

usaschools 9 years, 10 months ago

Well DW, the FACT is that your children are not getting a superior education in terms of academic achievement. They are also benefitting from the Lawrence Public Schools, as many children attending that school have, at some time in the past, attended public schools. In general, private schools don't outperform public schools. That is simply a myth that research does not substantiate.

I wish you would elaborate on the "fancy toys" that Lawrence teachers are supposed to have. I am sure it would come as a surprise to them to learn that they have anything fancy!

Your learn to live with less rhetoric is meaningless. Schools have had to live with less for a long time now. This is why they had to charge fees. This is why there is a serious problem. The solution for underfunding IS to increase funding. You can't back up your assertions with facts.

Jay_Z 9 years, 10 months ago

Right on DW! More money is NOT the answer.

I get tired of hearing people bitching that there is not enough funding for education. Will there ever be a day when we don't need to increase education funding? We put more and more money into education, but is the quality of the education provided to students improving? Public schools keep asking for more and more money, but overall the quality we get for the dollars we put in the system is lacking in my opinion. We need to hold schools accountable for their performance. A voucher system should be put in place--this will improve the quality of public education and hold the schools accountable.

Public education is being manipulated largely by politics. Liberals in their drive to create an entitlement society and to appeal to the less fortunate always pound the drum to increase funding for education.

usaschools~dw is right, I have read time and time again where private schools outperform public schools, especially in larger cities such as Washington DC.

dw 9 years, 10 months ago

usaschools, the paragraphs below were taken from the website publicschoolreview.com. There are numerous other sites that provide similar data.

It appears from Jay_Z, I am not alone in my view. We are tired of spending more and more money with no accoutability. I think it is good for the people who are using these schools to pay more than the rest of us. It doesn't hurt you to spend a couple of hundred dollars a year, does it?

From publicschoolreview.com:

Private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests. As with earlier results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), private school students performed higher than public school students on the NAEP: 2000 tests. Their average scores were above those of public school students on the 4th-grade reading test and on the 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade science and mathematics proficiency tests.

Private high schools typically have more demanding graduation requirements than do public high schools. Compared with public schools, private schools required more coursework (in 4-year high school programs) in 19992000 in social studies, mathematics, science, foreign language, and computer science. For example private schools required on average 3.1 years of mathematics, while public schools required 2.7 years. The figures for foreign language study also differed: 1.5 years at private schools but 0.5 years at public schools. In addition, about 40 percent of private schools required some form of community service for high school graduation, four times the rate for public schools (10 percent).

Private school students are more likely than public school students to complete a bachelor's or advanced degree by their mid-20s. Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, "Fourth Follow-up" (NELS: 1988/2000) show that students who had attended private school in 8th grade were twice as likely as those who had attended public school to have completed a bachelor's or higher degree by their mid-20s (52 versus 26 percent) and far less likely to not complete a post-secondary education.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

There have been various programs, with various names, designed for the purpose of using public funds to pay for all or part of the costs of students' tuition at private or religious schools. Proponents of such programs say that they increase "school choice" or "parent choice." Opponents point out that such "school choice" is limited by the fact that private and religious schools get to choose their students; parents may choose a particular private or religious school, but that school does not have admit their children. Critics also note that "parent choice" leaves out the rest of the American public--the majority of whom do not have school-age children--who would foot the bill but who would have no way of knowing how their tax dollars are being used because private and religious schools, unlike public schools, typically do not have to report to the public about, for example, how they spend their funds or how well their students are achieving.

The main reason for this opposition is because public funding of private or religious education transfers precious tax dollars from public schools, which are free and open to all children, accountable to parents and taxpayers alike, and essential to our democracy, to private and religious schools that charge for their services, select their students on the basis of religious or academic or family or personal characteristics, and are accountable only to their boards and clients.

In recent years, advocates of public funding of private and religious schools have argued that "school choice" and the ensuing "competition" between public and private schools will improve public schools and student achievement. The evidence does not support this argument. In contrast, the research clearly indicates that reducing class size or adopting scientifically based reading programs, for example, improves student achievement.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

Also USD 497 is ranked number 5 in the country which makes it a worthwhile investment. If private schools were the best on the planet there are plenty of parents who could bail however do not. Many of the parents not only donate but also do fund raisers to help the less fortunate. The demand for private schools is simply not there. Lawrence Public School students have no problem being accepted to university level institutions.

The voucher for private school concept is equal to giving tax dollars to wall street in place of social security...aka corporate welfare.

monicalewinsky 9 years, 10 months ago

I applaud our new Board of Education member, Craig Grant, for questioning the administration on this issue. It's refreshing to see a Board member who thinks for themselves and is not afraid to ask the tough questions and bring up the difficult issues. Craig is someone we can rely on to represent all of us fairly and hold administration accountable. Hooray!!

Go to a BOE meeting and see what's going on if you're so disgruntled. There is public comment time at almost every meeting. (but make sure you have your facts straight before you go so your ideas will be considered.) Irrational, incorrect information spouted off rudely won't fly.

blackwalnut 9 years, 7 months ago

It is absolutely illegal to charge parents $200 to $300 per semester for their child's public education. Federal law guarantees a "free" and "appropriate" education to all. I came from another state and I am simply shocked at the fees the Lawrence school district charges, despite the fact that sales tax, property tax and state income tax are very high here. Where is the money going?

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