After three years of discussion, two legislative task forces, two independent task forces, a couple of successful bills and others that didn't pass muster after lengthy debate, school fees in Utah are right where they were.

Parents will continue to pay fees levied in their districts and the districts will bear the costs of waivers to students who cannot afford the fees, unless recommendations of a legislative panel are ignored by the full body. Many of Utah's school districts, knowing there will be no financial relief from the Legislature, will likely examine programs - particularly those considered to be "extracurricular" - more closely, and some may be dropped.The most recent legislative task force reported Wednesday to the Legislature's Education Interim Committee that it could find no solution to the thorny fees issue, being hamstrung by a 3rd District Court ruling.

The decision by Judge John Rokich effectively tied the hands of the Legislature to do anything to address the problems of escalating fees that are out of control in some districts, or the issues surrounding fee waivers, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City, told the committee.

Many school districts depend on the income from fees for such vital things as textbooks, as well as extracurricular activities. Abuse of the provisions in many districts led to the lawsuit that precipitated Rokich's ruling. The judge demanded that districts comply to the letter of the school-fees laws. The ruling created havoc in many school districts that had come to rely on the school-fees income.

The task force conclusion was that "school districts that failed to obey the laws regulating fees created their own problem, and now they can resolve it," Bishop said. Wednesday was the last day in the Legislature for the former House speaker, and he noted it was a frustrating way to end his 16-year career in the House.

"This is the most irritating issue I have dealt with as a legislator," Bishop said in a meeting of the task force Tuesday. Several potential remedies the task force attempted ran into conflict with the court injunction.

"The judge has carved out three years of control over this issue," said Bishop, referring to the judge's decision to maintain oversight for three years. He said the judge had effectively set policy to which the Legislature must acquiesce or face additional litigation.

School officials tried to remind the task force that it was the Legislature that opened the door to prob-lems with fees when it amended the Utah Constitution in 1986 to allow schools to charge students to participate in school activities in grades 7-12. It also was the Legislature that demanded waivers for children who can't afford the fees. The judge simply demanded compliance with the provisions, they said.

The task force members responded that it was the duty of the State Office of Education to monitor compliance with the fee requirements.

"Don't you have any control over what the districts are doing?" asked Sen. David Watson, R-St. George, co-chairman of the task force. He said the judicial branch of government had seriously trampled on the prerogatives of the legislative branch in this instance.

State Superintendent Scott W. Bean said the state office had been working with districts for several years to clarify fee issues and bring them into conformity. The office tried to discourage a lawsuit but could not get Utah Legal Services to hold off, he said.

Lawsuits had been threatened in "20 to 30" of the districts, and consolidating them into one suit against the state office was the wisest approach, said John Mc-Allister. The costs of litigation in several districts could have been enormous, since the districts do not enjoy immunity from damages if they lose cases.

Obviously irritated task force members were unhappy that the Legislature had been excluded from any participation in the lawsuit, even in an advisory capacity.