Updated at 2:10 p.m.: The headline of this article previously said the school board would discuss blanket activity fees. Blanket activity fees are illegal. The board will discusss charging fees for participation in specific activities.
Last year, some parents complained that students who were not involved in any after-school activity were charged a $50 fee for high school students and a $25 one for middle schoolers.
"For a first-year implementation, the process went well with very few complaints from parents or students," wrote Superintendent Marsha Chappelow in a letter to the board. "The problem with the fees came up near graduation time last spring when, as in past years, students were sent a letter listing the fees that they still needed to pay in order to participate in graduation activities. One parent challenged the legality of charging his student an activity fee of $50 since his student was not a participant in any school activities."
These blanket fees were identified by the school district’s 2010-11 Budget Task Force as a way to generate some revenue and offset budget cuts. The school board is set to review these fees tonight at their work session.
In a 2012 Missouri Court of Appeals case, judges ruled that imposition of blanket fees to students that did not benefit from the activity was in violation of the Hancock Amendment, Chappelow wrote in her letter.
The district sent a letter to parents informing them that any parent who wished a refund from last year’s fee could contact the district to receive one. Chappelow said only a handful of parents opted to receive a refund.
In the letter to parents, Chappelow said there would be no mandatory activities fee for the year 2012-2013. The school board, however, will still discuss whether or not to have mandatory activity fees tonight at its monthly work session.
“The Board requested that this be brought back this year to review what we are able to do with student fees in order to recoup some of our expenditures towards the costs of student activities,” Chappelow wrote in her memo to the board. “We can legally charge fees for MSHSAA activities for student participants.”
Some of the information to be reviewed tonight includes a survey of how other local and state school districts are charging activity fees.
The October 2012 survey, conducted by the district, asked 16 local districts and eight Missouri districts how they handled their fees.
The only St. Louis-area districts that charged an activity fee were Lindbergh, Pattonville, Troy and Webster. Seven out of eight districts outside the St. Louis area also charged the fee.
You can read the survey here.
Tell us in our comments: Would you support an activity fee for all students?