The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Free public school education - less and less free

Aug 25, 2003

Until last week, the Avondale School District, north of Detroit, planned to charge a $35 activity fee to all students, whether or not they were participating in extracurricular activities.

After an outcry by parents, the State of Michigan struck down the fee, saying that because Avondale was asking all students to pay, it amounted to charging tuition for public school.

This school district backed off this time. But if Avondale figured it could get away with charging this fee, it's only because of what schools have been able to get away with up until this point.

The very state department that told Avondale it couldn't charge the $35 fee has cut school funding by several million dollars per school district this year, meaning the schools don't have enough money.

This is the argument most districts try to use for all the fees they charge: lab fees for science classes; damage fees on textbooks; parking fees; athletic fees of $100 per year – or per sport. (Avondale still plans to charge the $35 – but only from students participating in extracurricular activities.)

On top of this, the lists of required school supplies are getting longer, including items such as hand sanitizer and paper towels, in addition to folders, pens and paper. Some schools put much pressure on parents to volunteer their time in the classroom, rather than hire paid classroom aides. And everyone knows that teachers pay hundreds of their own dollars every year to make sure their students have the proper supplies.

There are more and more costs that parents and teachers are shouldering, over and above what we're paying in taxes already.

Obviously, the more we are ready to pay – for supposedly free public school education – the more they'll keep trying to charge us!