Public schools pass costs onto parents

School buses in Fairfax County, Va.

Steve Chiotakis: The start of a new school year is mere days away. And as states grapple with tighter education budgets, some families are being asked to share more of the cost.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.

Amy Scott: In Keller, Texas, near Fort Worth, riding the bus to school used to be free. Starting this fall, public school students will have to pay $185 a semester.

James Guthrie: This is like banks continuing to add fees. You're just going to chase the customers away eventually.

That's James Guthrie, with the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. He says school districts feeling pressed for money are passing costs onto parents. Last year, a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of California over the practice. Staff attorney David Sapp says schools are charging for basics like books and supplies. Activities like band and football can cost more than $1,000.

David Sapp: This is essentially a tax, and it's most painful and hardest on the members of our society that can least afford it.

Sapp says these fees are illegal in California. Bus fare to and from school is one of the few fees the state allows.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.
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This has been going on for years in Massachusetts. Fees to ride the bus, fees to play sports, and of course, parking fees if you choose to drive yourself to school rather than take the bus. And then add the mandatory lists of supplies that each teacher hands out at the beginning of the year. Before you know it you're shelling out $1000 a year to send two kids to public school.

Our local district is starting to charge this year as well. Our district charges one dollar per kid per trip (i.e. two dollars a day). This fee was even pitched to the public as something that will allow bus service to continue without raising taxes, but I agree with the story - this is just a tax increase in a different format.

Ah, back to the 'good ole days'? Not.

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