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S.L. board discussing boosts in school fees
Burden growing, education group’s president notes

SHARE S.L. board discussing boosts in school fees
Burden growing, education group’s president notes

There's no such thing as a free public education in Utah.

That was the sentiment of Salt Lake Superintendent Darline Robles and the district's Board of Education, which discussed proposed increases in certain school fees Tuesday. The board will resume discussions next month.Fees are waived for low-income families who meet certain requirements. Even so, some students shy away from certain activities because of the cost, said board member Cliff Higbee. Drill team commands a $600 annual fee, for instance.

Fee waivers last school year cost Highland High School $74,000, up from $50,000 four years earlier, said board president Kathy Black. She believes Highland's fee waivers mirror those at West and East high schools.

"As fees go up . . . that creates a greater and greater burden for those who pay the fees," Black said. "We're saying there's a free public education for some and not others. I represent a significant population who believe this burden is growing heavier."

While the board has no answer to the problem, it has looked at giving schools money for activities and certain courses to do away with fees, Robles said. But the suggestion would cost a small fortune in the 25,000-student district.

Fee proposals include doubling Highland's fine arts fee to $30 due to inflation, boosting some East workbooks a few bucks and requiring some middle school students to pay an $8 art fee and a $40 annual musical instrument fee, up from $25.

The need for fees is blamed on shortfalls in state public education funding.

The 1999 Legislature killed a bill that originally sought $12 million to eliminate textbook fees for secondary schoolchildren. The bill was gutted to $3 million to ax such fees for seventh- and eighth-graders, then died in the Senate.

The Legislature also did not give extra money for textbooks, as it has in years past.