School fees undermine equality of opportunity in the public system

I have to pay $85 per child for the 2019-2020 school year at my sons public high school. These are as follows: $35 to support clubs, teams, coaching and athletics; $35 for directory; $10 for an athletics t-shirt; $5 for a diary.

The amount may not seem like much, but I know that $85 is just the beginning.

Throughout the year, I will be asked to pay for team uniforms, tournaments, travel, gym memberships, prom tickets, and probably more. These costs are in addition to school supplies, such as calculators and notebooks.

Public schools across Canada charge fees to cover a variety of costs.

You might be thinking, “Aren’t Canadian public schools free?” Are taxes not used to cover their costs? In fact, all Canadian provinces and territories allow public schools to charge fees for services, programs or resources that go beyond the requirements for a basic education.

My research shows that mainstream parenting policies and ideas force parents to pay their children’s school fees, even when they think they shouldn’t. The choices made by governing boards and schools promote the idea that parents are responsible for ensuring the educational success of their children and, more broadly, in a competitive society.

But not all families can afford the financial costs, so their children may miss out on opportunities that wealthy children can enjoy. Paying school fees may be optional, but allowing parents to pay for more benefits for their children undermines the Canadian Ministry of Education’s commitment to equal educational opportunity and inclusion for all.

The Cost of Ambiguity: A Quebec Case

Quebec school boards recently received a wake-up call about imposing school supply fees on parents: last summer, the Quebec Superior Court approved a $153.5 million settlement agreement. The court concluded that inappropriate fees were charged to parents whose children were students in one of the 68 Quebec school boards covered by the action. The class action was brought by one of Jonquier’s mothers.

Under the settlement agreement, parents whose children attended affected school boards between 2009 and 2017 received more than $24 per student per school year: thus, if a parent had two children, they received more. $48 per year for each child attending school during that period.

The lawsuit alleges that fees charged by school boards violate Quebec’s education law, which guarantees free education to elementary and secondary students.

In July, Quebec legislators clarified what the “right to free education services” for residents includes — and doesn’t include. Notably, after a public consultation, public schools in Quebec are still allowed to charge fees for school supplies, special equipment, special programs and more.

Types of Fees

These allocations indicate the different types of fees charged by schools First, there are school fees that every student must pay. These can be things students will use – such as diaries – or activities they will join, such as clubs, teams and special events.

Amount varies. A report by the non-profit organization People for Education reveals that in Ontario, high school activity fees range from $10 to $300 and many schools $1. Also charges fees for sports activities ranging from $1,500

These fees can act as a barrier to student participation in school and sports, especially for children from low-income families. Non-participation in extracurricular activities deprives them of academic, social, psychological and physical benefits.

Other fees are charged for those who take private lessons and those who wish to use the equipment, obtain certification, or participate in related field trips. The registration fee is optional, but it creates two levels in the same class.

School fees can be a barrier for students to participate in school or sports activities.
(Shutterstock)

The issue of waivers

Some governments, school boards and schools offer exemptions to families who cannot afford school fees. For example, the British Columbia Schools Act requires school boards to have “policies and procedures to facilitate the participation of school-age students ordinarily resident in British Columbia who would otherwise be excluded from courses, classes or programs due to financial difficulties.”

But parents may not be aware of these policies: In the US, a CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, based at the University of Michigan, found that only seven percent of parents ever requested a discount or donation. Participation fee. The survey was conducted with 961 parents. Families may also be reluctant to seek help because of the stigma associated with poverty and financial hardship. Many times children miss opportunities.

Tuition waiver policies will also not help students who want to gain a place in certain specialized programs that involve travel across or outside the province and the cost of training and equipment.

Finally, these policies help institutionalize the fee-for-service system in public education. The belief that “if you want more, you should pay more” is one of the many private sector ideas that have become common in public schools.

Such arguments undermine the mission of public schools. It prioritizes private benefits and allows governments to underfund public education because they know parents will fill the gap.

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