April 6, 2013

ON CAMPUS: Student fees raise questions

Reading school board agenda raises red flags when new student fees appear in policies.

I read about a dozen online school board agendas a week. What I'm looking for as I scan are watchdog issues -- high ticket items, major policy shifts, innovative solutions, slippy-slidy slopes, shady deals -- and mom issues.

Even though new bleachers for Beyer is a tiny item buried in the consent calendar, I figure parents whose kids go to Beyer would like to know. Next year's school calendar, just a footnote to contract negotiations, is a big deal for families.

Student fees is another one. They usually barely cover what it costs to collect them, acting more as don't-scribble-in-your-textbooks deterrents. They're not going to balance school budgets, but they can wreak havoc on ours.

Changes proposed in student fees on the Modesto City Schools agenda hit my mom-radar straight on. Fees that would be allowed -- not necessarily imposed -- included charging for school bus rides, eye goggles in shop class and gym clothes in PE. Tuition -- tuition? -- for non-resident students. What the heck was that?

Red flags waved. Sirens went off. Alarms rang. I sent off a flurry of messages trying to reach someone after hours on a week virtually no one in education is in town.

Folks answered basically befuddled: This was a standard change of verbiage to comply with new laws -- nothing in there about school bus fees or charging kids tuition.

But that's what it says.

Which means either standard wording no longer falls under standard English, or I'm the only one spending Spring Break reading school board agendas. Hmmm. My buck's on the bunny.

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