School Fees aka Book Fees
One new way that schools are raising a little extra money is through an annual fee. It’s called a school fee, student fee, or book fee.
Well, this seems relatively new in Chicago, but it seems to be pretty standard in the suburban world (meaning the entire country’s suburbs, not just ours.)
The concept is that the school needs to buy disposable materials every year for the students and that the families need to cover that cost.
My son’s school just sent out a matter of fact letter that the fee will be $100. Ouch! That kind of hurts coming off buying what is usually $60+ in school supplies, new backback and lunchbox, clothes. All the random toys I buy my son when we’re out shopping for the aforementioned items. (Although wait, am I the same mom who shelled out $8K per year for Montessori preschool and now I’m screaming about a $100 fee!?)
One thing that interests/amuses me about the $100 fee is that when I was on the LSC at my neighborhood school last year we decided to add a school fee to cover all the one-time-usage workbooks that must be purchased every year (btw, this is a scam perpetuated by the education publishing companies who use it as their cash cow.) Oh, the debate that took place. We truly spent hours discussing whether the school feel would freak people out, offend them, make families feel self conscious if they couldn’t pay it, discussed the wording, offered a volunteer option instead (time vs money.) We had an interesting discussion about what % of families would pay different dollar amounts? (Do you get more people paying if you go with $40 rather than $50? Which would generate the most total $?) What about families with 3+ kids? It was an interesting discussion about the psychology of pricing, family pride, fairness, etc.
We called other local schools to inquire about their school fees. They ranged from $25 – $100. Of course the fee can in no way be required. It is just “suggested.” And collection probably depends on whether someone has the time to remind/hound/guilt people into paying. The clerk at (I think) Decatur told me she makes it her mission and gets 95% compliance. Impressive!
In the end, my local school went with a sliding scale with a volunteer option and wording to make you feel like you were still a good person if you couldn’t pay. That’s why it humors me a bit that my son’s school just dropped the $100 fee on us without (seemingly) the blink of any eye. I think it’s a good tactic though. The school is in Tier 4 and I think people whose kids get into the gifted programs can be expected to shell out $100 per year. And it won’t come close to what the school is losing in funding this year, due to the loss of lower income students.
But yes, I will still grumble the day I write that check.
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