Unless lawmakers throw a lifeline, a flood of fee-waiver requests may force Davis School District to cut programs or raise the fees, according to an assistant superintendent.
Davis officials already have granted almost double the amount of waiver requests this year.The fees, paid by junior and senior high students, cover textbooks, supplies, athletic uniforms and equipment and musical instruments.
"Half of the (fees collected) go straight to textbooks, so this is having an immediate, direct impact in the classroom," said Steve Ronnenkamp, assistant superintendent. "Two things will happen if (the waiver flood) continues: cut programs or raise fees."
Ronnenkamp attributes the jump in waiver requests to a 3rd District Court injunction forcing the state Office of Education to ensure districts are complying with waiver guidelines.
The court ruling drew media attention and required districts to send letters to parents explaining eligibility for the waivers.
"People are just more aware, and it's become more acceptable to ask for waivers," he said.
Waivers are usually granted to students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In Davis' case, that cut-off would be a maximum income of $2,518 a month for a family of five, for example.
School administrators would prefer no fees at all.
"The Legislature should make public education, all of it, free," Davis School Board member Ray Briscoe said. "Principals should be academic administrators, not fee collectors."
Collecting the fees probably costs the district as much as it collects, said Roger Glines, district business administrator.
Lawmakers could start by eliminating fees for textbooks, science lab instruments and other supplies, said Superintendent Rich Ken-dell.
"I don't support, philosophically, any fees. The Legislature put us in that business a few years ago. And because we're a relatively poor district, we've gotten into it in a big way," he said.
Davis collects about $700,000 annually in fees. That amount currently covers expenses but will not make up for losses from waivers, Ron-nen-kamp said.
He said the amount granted so far this year likely will increase as more students move into the district.
Davis Number Total
school granted amount
North Davis Jr. 156 $ 6,084
Central Davis Jr. 153 6,120
Layton High 148 8,551
Clearfield High 147 11,805
South Davis Jr. 117 4,670
Bountiful High 67 5,490
Kaysville Jr. 15 600