Everyone knows there’s a price tag for a private school education, but in the US, public school is free. Or at least it used to be. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talked about the growing trend of public schools charging their students for certain classes that are outside their core curriculum, including the AP classes so many colleges want to see on the transcripts of prospective students, as well as things like student government and band.
According to the article, in several states just walking in the front door can cost high school students more than $200 in registration fees, technology fees and ‘instructional fees.’ Add that to what are called “pay to play” fees for sports and arts programs and even community service, and we’re talking a serious chunk of change. One school profiled charged $350 to join chess club, $200 to participate in Students Against Drunk Driving, $85 to write for the literary magazine—and $50 to clean up beaches with the Environmental Club.
The problem? The very things these schools are charging extra money for are the same things that students rely on to beef up their college resumes so they have a better chance of getting into a great school. And students who come from low income households, many of whom are already at a disadvantage due to their socioeconomic status, are going to struggle even more to reach their dreams.
The article points out that many states require schools to waive academic, but not extracurricular, fees for the poorest students, but the cutoff is less than an annual family income of $29,000. And those just above the cutoff generally aren’t given any slack. In California, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is suing the state for allowing its districts to charge such fees, saying they “violate the spirit of a free public education.”
What’s your take? Does your school charge fees to participate in extra classes or activities? Do you think this practice is fair?
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