Friday, June 25, 2004
Public school fees are here to stay
Parent fees are here to stay at both the Carlisle Public School (CPS) and Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). Though many fees were originally implemented as temporary stop-gaps to prevent program cuts, they have become an accepted cost of being a public school parent in Carlisle. For the 2004-05 school year, existing fees will remain with some increases to cover rising costs.
Middle school parents pay most
Fees fall particularly hard on middle school parents who could pay as much as $1,000 for a bus-riding student participating in multiple sports. For the past two years CPS has levied a bus fee for seventh- and eighth-graders, for whom the school is not legally required to provide service. That fee of $395 per year (1/2 price for a second child in the same year) will remain for the 04-05 school year. In addition, each sport requires an athletic fee of $180 per student per sport (an increase of $5 over 03-04) with no cap or volume discount. According to exiting Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson, this fee is among the highest in the state.
Kindergarten parents pay $525 per student for the year to participate in optional Tuesday/Thursday extended days. Parents whose regular education children participate in the Carlisle preschool pay $400 per month for three mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. Lunch is $2 per student per lunch for all grades, and most field trip costs (usually around $20) are passed on to parents.
No increases at CCHS
Thanks to the recent passage of a budget override, the high school will not increase fees for the coming year. Fees at the high school include an athletic fee of $75 per sport per athlete, a parking fee of $125 per vehicle per student, and a late bus fee of $50 per student per year, or $1 per day. Had the override not passed, the plan was to increase athletic fees and implement a fee for co-curricular activities, which are currently free.
Fees "pretty generally accepted"
Administrators at both schools report fees generally raise few complaints from parents. "Students can request a waiver (due to hardship) and if such a request is made, it is honored," says CCHS Principal Art Dulong. "I am not aware of anyone who doesn't take part [in school activities] because of fees."
CPS waives fees for students receiving free or reduced lunch. Business Manager Steve Moore says fees are "pretty generally accepted," though Fox-Melanson notes that what she hears is "mostly resignation."
Participation rates are high in most programs, regardless of fees. Nearly 100% of parents take part in the extended day kindergarten, which is cheaper than most daycare alternatives. According to Fox-Melanson, a high percentage of seventh and eighth graders ride the bus. "Most who opt out never did ride the bus" due to proximity to school or other factors.
"What I don't know is how many kids don't play sports because of fees," says Fox-Melanson. She notes very few families apply for waivers, "Is that because they're okay? Or they don't want to ask?" She adds that, while her philosophy has been "public school students should be afforded the opportunity to participate in any sport they want to," sports teams at the middle school are forced to be selective to maximize playing time in order to justify the high athletic fee. Another unknown is whether fees may cause some students to limit themselves to one sport, contributing too early to specialization.
Carlisle and Concord-Carlisle are not alone in assessing fees. According to Moore, "You'd be hard pressed to find a district in Massachusetts that doesn't charge fees. It has become part of the culture."
© 2004 The