School fees and school supplies? Why?

Susan EspirituOur Town Youth

School fees and supply lists are posted on every elementary school website. Not true for middle and high school where fees and supplies may vary according to every subject and class, adding up to exorbitant dollar figures. What does this mean for the average parent?

I had the blessed experience to be the lead administrator for two public elementary schools and the parent of three children in public schools. I never understood the grounds for asking for both school fees and supplies? My teachers questioned the rationale as well since neither the lists nor the fees covered the needs.

We felt the school should provide the supplies for students, because teachers wound up providing many of the supplies throughout the year, so the rationale became that a supply list for families would provide those supplies for the classroom. Supply lists, no matter how detailed, are still very subjectively fulfilled in reality and the result either doesn’t fill the need or the need changes, causing a lack during the course of the year.

I assume (only my opinion) the answer became school fees to offset the need to purchase the missing supplies. In actuality, this fell short as well.

But what about the parent side of filling both a supply list and paying a fee which becomes a financial burden on many families, especially those with more than one school-age child.

What happens to the families who just can’t pay $25 per child at the elementary level and more per class as they age on up into middle and high school?

According to the law in the state of Tennessee, public school fees where education is intended to be “free and appropriate” may only be requested and not required with no ramifications for non-payment.

“School fees are governed by the Tennessee Constitution, Tennessee law, Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE) rules and local board of education policy. Only those fees authorized by the local board of education may be requested, and payment of school fees may not be a condition to attending the public school or using its equipment.” ~Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-110

I thought a student had to be on “fee waiver” to not pay the school fees. Not according to Tennessee State constitution.

“Public school is free in Tennessee. Fees may be requested, but not required of any student. There is a common misconception that only those students receiving free or reduced-price meals may have fees waived. In fact, the State Constitution and state statutes prohibit schools from requiring any student, regardless of income, from being charged a fee “as a condition to attending the public school or using its equipment while receiving educational training.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-110(c).”

This next question in the FAQ is one for every parent to consider when their child is being left out of special events because they did not “sell” enough or didn’t bring in the fees on time, etc.

May a school hold pizza parties or other special events during regular school hours and limit attendance or participation to those students who participated in or raised a certain amount of money in a fundraiser?

No, this is a situation where the school is providing an activity “that occur[s] during regular school hours,” (Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-114(b)(1)), where the key to participation is, essentially, the payment of a fee. However, a school could offer a special lunch to those students during the lunch hour or after school.

For direct information to the state site regarding fees in public schools, go here.

Whereas it used to be fun to get new school clothes, a new lunch box, and new pair of shoes, families continue to balance how to provide these necessities while expecting a notice of schools’ fees and list of school supplies.

Remember at least, for all those shopping lists, TAX FREE weekend is July 26-28, 2024.

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