To enhance students' feelings of self-esteem and promote the work ethic, the Murray District is coordinating a program for students to earn their school fees through community service.

Many students can't afford fees for football or band uniforms, choir robes or yearbooks.While the school district will waive the fees for students who qualify for the free school lunch program, members of the Murray School District Board of Education believe that students gain self-respect by earning their fees through service.

"This is an opportunity for students to say to themselves, `Maybe my parents are strapped financially, but I can earn my band uniform myself,"' says Barbara Brunker, director of pupil and services for Murray District.

Options for services would include activities that would enhance a feeling of self-worth, said Brunker. For example, a student earning fees would earn fees credit at minimum wage rate - $4.25 per hour - for tutoring elementary school students, working in a school's office or learning about retail sales by working at a Murray business.

No cash is actually exchanged between the student and the district for the services, but the student has the satisfaction of knowing the fees have been earned, said Brunker.

"Board members believe that kids will learn that it's rewarding to work for what you get. They learn that there's no free lunch in life. The district leaders think it's a good lesson in building self-reliance and self-confidence that will benefit kids all their lives."

Allowing students to work for their fees does not, however, provide any financial advantage for the district. In fact, Murray School District has hired a coordinator to direct the program at a cost to the district. And even though fees are earned, they still must be paid in full by the district.

During the 1993-1994, fee waivers cost Granite School District nearly a quarter of a million dollars - even though the district has a work-for-fees program. Of the 5,745 students requesting fee waivers, only 19 performed public service to earn the waived fees.

In Utah during the 1993-94 school year, only five districts sponsored work-for-fees programs. The number of students who volunteered for public service include seven students in Alpine District; 23 students in Carbon District; 19 in Granite District; five in Jordan District and 210 in Provo District.

The total cost of waived fees for Utah school districts was $1,704,132.

In January, the Legislature passed a statute urging districts to set up work-for-fees programs.

Doug Bates, coordinator of school law for the State Board of Education, commends Murray District for implementing a program that would allow students options for community service.

"It's true that the district puts out the same amount of money even though students work for fees, but it teaches the work ethic," said Bates.

"And students feel they are making a contribution in return for what they are receiving."