Public schools are supposed to be free. Yet reviews by both the Virginia Department of Education and JustChildren reveal that most schools charge many kinds of fees for various services, materials, and activities. Most schools do not have comprehensive policies on permitted fees or waivers for low-income students, and many of the fees being charged may be unlawful.
Although many families probably feel that fees are a small price to pay for the high quality educational program provided by our public schools, for some, fees present a real hardship and may even prevent students from participating in some activities. Indeed, some schools have policies that prevent students who have not paid mandatory fees from participating in field trips, extra-curricular activities, or graduation ceremonies.
The regulations on permitted fees and charges have not been reviewed or revised since 1980. As schools face increasing pressure to produce graduates ready to compete in a global workforce without corresponding increases in support from the state, the pressure to pass on costs will only grow. These regulations are of constitutional importance and, given the proliferation of required fees, there is a real need for clarity.
Please revise the regulations to ensure the schools have uniform policies on permitted fees and charges that conform to the constitutional requirement that all services, materials, and activities required for courses and other essential elements of the educational experience (e.g., graduation) be provided free of charge.
Please also consider the educational benefits of many non-mandatory activities (e.g., sports, summer school) and whether it might be appropriate to require schools to have waiver policies designed to prevent students experiencing financial hardship from being excluded from those activities.
Thank you for your consideration,
I am in favor of revising DOE regulations in a way that will achieve a truly free education for Virginia students in all public schools, as guaranteed by our Constitution. Currently, as you know, a variety of fees are charged to students in school districts across the state. Many of the fees, in my opinion, are nothing more than tuition for Virginia students attending public schools. Even when the individual fees are nominal, they add up, creating financial hardship for large families and the poor. If the costs are legitimately needed to provide a public education for our children, then the costs should be addressed by the general assembly and not levied on students and their parents.
Thank you for your consideration.
Please revise the regulations governing public school fees.
I ask that you please revise the regulations governing public school fees. The Constitution entitles Virginia's students to a free public education and some of the fees currently charged by local schools infringe on this right. Please ensure that your revised regulations do not do the same.
I would like to encourage the Virginia Department of Education to eliminate school fees. Please revise your regulations.
Please revise these regulations. They are currently unfair. I realize that schools are underfunded but the students should not have to make up the difference.
Thanks for your consideration.
Students who receive free or reduced lunch should not have to pay school fees. What a family saves on lunch, they spend on school fees. In the public housing community where I live, many of the families have to pay for 2, 3, or 4 children to go to school. It's a burden in September when they buy school supplies, school clothes and pay fees. Sometimes it causes people who are normally good about paying rent not to pay the rent, and next thing you know, they are served with an eviction. We see a lot of people late paying the rent right around school time.
Please revise the regulations on public school fees. A FREE public education system is a large part of what has made this country great. Steadily increasing fees impose a substantial burden on low income families.
Please, revise the regulations on public school fees. Our students are entitled to a free public education, and charging school fees infringe on this right. Coming from the perspective of a former teacher who taught in a Title I school, I have seen how much an extra cost related to school burdens an already financially struggling family. Thank you for looking into this matter.
Everyone should have the right to a free public school education without conditions.
Please adopt regulations that ensure that Virginia's free public education remain free to all. School fees are a burden to many families, and can stigmatize those children whose families cannot afford them and exclude them from activities that enrich their school experience. Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
Please revise the regulations on school fees to ensure that the public school system is not placing a burden on low-income families.
Income is already a huge determining factor in a student's success, and the achievement gap between high- and low-income students is increasing. Please do not worsen it by excluding children from field trips or extracurricular activities when their parents cannot shoulder the additional burden. Public education is a right. If these activities are important enough to merit spending money on them, then we should be creative enough to find waiver programs to include everyone.
Please ensure that waivers are available and easily accessible for low-income families.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this matter and for your thoughtful consideration of the best interests of our children.
Please revise the regulations on public school fees.
Charging fees for public school services is not a solution for under-funding of our education system: the state will no doubt decrease funding in proportion to any revenue gained by school fees, leaving schools no better off but leaving poor families with an additional burden.
I was disappointed to read over the past several weeks just how many Virginia counties and cities impose school fees. I can only hope that they were adopted one-by-one by school boards trying to manage their budgets. However, when taken as a whole, they are an assualt on free public eduction. There needs to be a clear directive from the State Bd of Education against fees. State and local taxes are the only fair way to pay for educating all our children. Thank you. John Conover
For all its flaws, the public financing of public schools in Virginia generally bears some positive relationship to the financial means of residents. The increase of fees in Virginia's public schools betrays these ideals of basic fairness.
In its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court stated, "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms."
With the rise in public school fees in Virginia, poorer families' children are plainly NOT being provided the free public education the Virginia Constitution requires, and are plainly NOT being provided a public education on the same terms as wealthier families' children.
Please revise the regulations to restore at least a basic level of fairness.
Please revise the regulations on public school fees. Many Virginia families are just getting by, economically, and VA laws guarantee a free public education.
In my capacity as director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, I work with non-governmental organizations, primarily focussed on Latin America, on the right to education without discrimination. The obligation of the state to provide compulsory primary education that is free to all without discrimination on any basis (including socio-economic class) is a concern in many developing nations of the world. I find it surprising and ironic that Virginia has similar problems with respect to hidden fees for education. Please revise regulations on public school fees so that all Virginia's children have genuine equal access to education.
Deena R. Hurwitz
A public education is only functional as long as it serves the public. School fees set theoretical and concrete restraints on just who has access to education, and thus run contrary to the descriptor "public". If we are going to have a system of quasi-private schools in this country, we should be honest about it and do away with the public system.
Otherwise, let taxes pay for the public institutions.
I'd like to echo Ms. Ciolfi's sentiments on this issue, as a product of public education myself and as someone who has been involved in public schools at a classroom level. Please consider the opportunities that a free public school education is supposed to provide and the children who are very much in need of them.
In my day to day work with families living in subsidized housing in Charlottesville, I am often witness to conversations among residents regarding the many challenges they face while trying to provide for the needs of their children. I am a product of the public school system myself, albeit that of Missouri, and I was shocked when the parents I work with first told me about all of the hidden costs families must contend with in order to send their children to public school here in Virginia. These parents view education as the only route to a better life for their children; a way to break the generational cycle of poverty. Please consider revising school fee policies in order to remove barriers to children receiving a well-rounded education and having the freedom to succeed.
Urban Farm Manager
Quality Community Council, Inc.,
Please review your regulations as it relates to local schools charging fees to students. Currently for a middle or high schooler in the county I live in, the fees can top more than $150 per student. That doesn't include any extras the student may have like shop fees, or for band or chorus. I believe this creates a hardship for many families. While I realize this is just a small percentage of what it costs to educate the child, the child, nor the family should have to pay the fee. The school district should also not be allowed to withhold report cards or dipolmas for non-payment of fees. Many districts make this their policy and therefore, hold diplomas hostage until fees are paid.
Virginia's Constitution guarantees a free public education for its children. Our public educational system is our democracy's primary means of achieving equal opportunities for all of our residents, regardless of economic or social status. Unfortunately, the lack of clear regulatory guidance has left our local school systems adrift on this issue, and many of them unknowingly are violating the constitutional guarantee by charging fees for key components of a child's education. This situation creates a substantial hardship and/or barrier to children of low-income parents. Please enact some clear guidance that recognizes Virginia's constitutional guarantee of a free public education and ensures that low-income children are not deprived of the school systems' educational programs and related services and activities because of their poverty.
Over the years public schools have provided less and less for "free" education. As a child my parents purchased very little for my sisters and I to attend school and paid a small $10 fee. Now parents have to buy most if not all supplies and pay book fees and other fees that are ambiguous at best. Low income families have a difficult enough time and particularly in the current economy. School fees add to the stress of providing for day to day needs of the household.
Please revise your policy on school fees. FREE public education is guaranteed in the Virginia Constituion. All those little fees, plus school supplies, are a real burden to struglling families.
Please revise current regulations that require students to pay for school resources. School activity fees should be eligible for waivers for low income or large families or eliminated entirely.
Thanks for your consideration.
Public education is supposed to be free. Public schools have the great opportunity make efforts to equalize the education of all children, whether their parents are lower-income or higher-income, so that wealth does not determine the quality or extent of the education that a child receives. The school fees permitted by the current regulations remove this opportunity, exacerbating the difference between wealthy and impoverished students by denying educational opportunities to students who cannot afford them.
While the mandatory school fees for general education are clearly problematic, fees for non-mandatory activities offered by the school are also incredibly limiting. I encourage you to think about the significant role that sports, art, field trips and other non-mandatory activities play in the development of children and youth.
I ask that you please reconsider the current regulations on school fees to ensure that all children are permitted an equal opportunity to have the same educational experience regardless of what their families can afford. Please ensure that public education is truly free.
As a career educator and parent, I am requesting that there be a moratorium on our schools' ability to add set fees for a student's education until revised regulations and a uniform code is established.
Within a set period of time, there needs to be a careful review of any and all fees that school systems require students to pay for both mandatory and non-manditory classes, services, materials, and activities.
Pending any revision of the State Department of Education policies, our state's policies need to reflect the Commonwealth's commitment to providing a free education for the purposes of self-sufficiency and full citizenship, and secondarily to provide all its citizens opportunities to benefit from non-manditory training. Access and participation in non-manditory instruction and services for all students should be underwritten by the state, the student's local school system, and if needed through wavers such that there is no exclusion of motivated students from these activities.
Virginia's commitment to education for all its citizens, while not perfect is something we can be proud of. Revisions and recommitments are an essential part of dynamic leadership in education so that we do not lose heart or marginalize anyone.
As the coordinator of an afterschool program for middle school students in a low-income community, I am deeply disturbed by the reports by VDOE and JustChildren regarding mandatory school fees. While these fees may be very affordable for most parents, they may adversely affect low-income families whose children are, statistically-speaking, already at a competitive disadvantage.
Most of these fees are likely illegal, and even if legal, should not be forced upon families who cannot afford to pay, with threats hanging over their childrens' heads. VDOE's report showed that out of 64 school districts that reported that they charge school fees, only 20 have a policy regarding families with financial hardships and 9 of those actually notify families of it. That is deplorable, and needs immediate attention.
Please revise the regulations on public school fees. Virginia guarantees free education, and it should be free in practice, not just as promised in its Constitution. Parents should be informed of the fee waiver process when each request is made.
As a parent as well as professional working in the Social Services field, I believe school fees, in certain cases discriminate. It is a minor financial drain on my family when fees for materials or activities are requested by my son's school. For low income families, it is either impossible or a serious drain on already stressed financial situations. The children whose families can't afford these fees suffer by not attending trips etc. or by other children picking up on the difficulty and the child being embarassed or even ostracized. Please consider that every child in Virginia is entitled to a "Free and Public Education". Let's see this in practice as well as on paper.
Public school fees should not be so cost prohibitive that all families cannot afford them. Every child is entitled to a free public education. Excess school fees should not deny a child access to education. Fees need to be looked and funded in different ways that don't overtax family budgets. Please look at this issue and ensure that public school education continues to be free.
When my eldest son was selected to take "Advanced PE" I was told of the high cost as it included such things as horseback riding lessons. I told the principal I would, in fact, pay the TUITION. He became very upset with my calling it tuition. But that is exactly what it was! I feel sorry for kids who can't afford the elite classes.
Why does the high school charge a $100.00 fee for a student parking pass?