Parents should be part of school fees discussion

It’s back to school time and the issue of school fees is here again.

Dear Editor:

It’s back to school time and the issue of school fees is here again. Parents should not have to pay school fees for required courses or programs of study in Alberta.

The Alberta School Councils’ Association believes fees should not be charged for items that are part of students’ required learning. For example, if a calculator or a workbook is needed to complete a math course with earned credits going toward a high school diploma, or is required to complete a program of studies mandated by Alberta Education, these required items should be supplied free of charge to the student.

While fees may be necessary for some courses and programs (sports, music, art), the basic programs of study required for a student to earn a high school diploma in Alberta should not have any fees attached. Nor should there be fees associated with elementary programs and the required courses that prepare students for junior and senior high school.

Parents and school councils are rarely consulted or informed about school fees before being asked to pay them — what the fees are being charged for, why they are being charged, how the money collected was spent and, if it was spent on the things for which the fees were collected. Parents and guardians are expected to pay a bill for which they have little or no knowledge about, and whether paying these fees will make a positive difference in their child’s education.

Those doing the paying should be part of the conversation first — about why and what the fees are for. And at the end of the school year, parents and school councils should be provided an accounting of the fees collected and how they were used.

In a perfect world, K to 12 education would be “fee-less.” Although not ideal, eliminating fees attached to required courses, consulting and informing the people who do the paying — before they are asked to pay — would be a step in the right direction.

Brad Vonkeman, president

Alberta School Councils’ Association