In an interview with WBRC Fox 6 News, Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Craig Pouncey agreed that schools cannot require fees for required courses, adding that course fees are set by school officials based on what the school community wants in terms of course offerings.
In other words, because the community wants coursework beyond the bare minimum, they are forcing districts to set those fees.
Trussville parents pay the highest school fees in Alabama http://t.co/BFFk5NayrJ
— Trussville Tribune (@TrussTribune) August 4, 2015
Is public education really free? A look at the wide range of fees depending on school. FOX6 News at 6. pic.twitter.com/psWLYhw6eZ
— Janet Hall (@JanetHallFOX6) August 6, 2015
— Jon Anderson (@jonandersonnews) August 4, 2015
Here’s what I wrote about what the Alabama State Department of Education says about course-related fees. Basically, the ALSDE’s guidance states that no fees can be charged for any course required for graduation.
Thus school officials have interpreted that to mean that no charges can be made for the bare minimum course (e.g., English 10, Algebra I), but if a student takes an advanced, honors, or Advanced Placement (AP) course, fees can be charged. And fees can be charged for elective classes, such as academy courses or career technology courses.
It appears that schools are charging whatever the market—the market being public school families—will pay.
The end result is that students who can pay those fees have access to a higher, more advanced level of education than students that are unable to do so.
There are major equity issues if that is so.
And even though a couple of the school fee guides highlighted below have language stating that parents who are having trouble paying the fees should schedule a conference with the principal, that gives the appearance that the principal is somehow doing them a favor by waiving the fees or setting a payment schedule.
Is this acceptable to our school community? To have one education available to students who are able to pay for advanced coursework and a lower level of education available to those who cannot?
Examples of Alabama High School Course Fees
I thought it might be helpful to publish some of Alabama’s schools’ fee sheets. So here is a sample of high school course fees across the state, pulled from their web sites, in alphabetical order.
If you’d prefer, you can download a PDF of these documents here.
Here’s a look at a few course guides that have the fees scattered throughout the guide. A quick way to find the fee amounts within each guide is to use the search function.