Jeffco Parents Still Paying Huge Fees 

shutterstock_67106932Remember when all that was required to send our children back to school was a few school supplies, a box of tissues and our children received the free public education they are supposed to get in Colorado?

That seems like a distant memory.

Jeffco significantly raised parent fees to help during the economic downturn and while staff and substitutes salaries have returned to pre-recession levels, fees have remained at the all-time highs set during the recession. In fact some fees have even increased. So I kept track this year of what it cost our family to send our children back to school and you won’t believe some of the amounts.

Transportation, Outdoor Labs and Athletic Fees Exceed $100.00 each:

The three highest individual fees are the transportation fees, which didn’t exist prior to 2011-12, the outdoor lab fees, and the athletic fees each of which are over $100. In fact, to ride the bus to our neighborhood schools cost us $150.00 per child. Now I am sure that doesn’t cover the cost of getting my children to school but my work schedule doesn’t allow me to drive them, so if they didn’t ride the bus, they couldn’t get to school. There went the first $150.00 per child, and the first $450.00 for our family of three students.

The next fee was for outdoor labs.  We got the news that we are in one of the schools in which parents have to pay $350.00 for our child to go to outdoor labs. This fee varies from $80.00 to $350.00 per child based on the poverty level of the school the child attends. That is right, the fee is not a sliding scale based on family income, no, the fee is based on the free and reduced rate of the school. This fee is significantly higher than was in 2012 when the fee per child was $199 to attend out door labs. How is that even possible when the Outdoor Labs Foundation raises funds to support the program? According to the secretary of state web site the foundation raised a million dollars last year, but they have a staff of four with an executive director that makes over $75,000.00.

Now to athletic fees; it will cost us $150.00 for our daughter to play sports this term. Yes, I know that is voluntary and maintaining fields are expensive but sports help keep her tied to school, so when she said she wanted to play we were forced to pay the fee. AND if she plays a sport in each term we will have to pay $150.00 for each sport she plays. So now we are $950.00 into our free public education and there will be another $300.00 as she plays sports the rest of the year, bringing the annual total to $1250.00.

Our free public education will cost us over $1200.00 just for transportation, outdoor labs, and sports.

School Fees and Supplies:

Each child also has school specific fees which for us totaled over $700.00. We paid technology fees and fees for specific classes, like the $35.00 fee for elementary math and the $20.00 fee for art supplies. These little fees added up quickly. And we haven’t hit the level of paying for AP classes which can cost up to $175.00, with the tests costing another $95.00 each. Nor are we faced with the $150.00 parking fee that is charged of high school students that park on school property. I can’t imagine being a parent of three high school athletes taking a number of AP or IB classes; that would break the bank.

So our free public education has run up expenses of nearly $2000.00 so far.

Next are the expenses we encountered fulfilling the “school supplies” list. Out shopping trips included stops at Target, Office Depot and Staples as we did our best to try to fulfill the “student supply list”. We spent a total of $274.00 and that doesn’t include what we pulled from the supplies we have left over from previous years. In addition to the expected folders, pencils, and paper, we were also requested to bring a ream of copy paper, a box of gallon zip lock bags and a large container of Clorox wipes.

Meals:

We also had to buy a couple of textbooks for high school and we know we will be hit with a PTO fee, requests for fundraiser support as well as other class fees next semester. In addition, we project our children will eat at school about 100 days this year; breakfast will cost $1.75 for elementary students and $2.00 for secondary students. Lunch costs $2.75 at the elementary level and $3.25 for secondary students, and yes that is every day. To eat breakfast and lunch just a little over half of the time, we will spend nearly $1500.00.

So far, our free public education expense total is over $3500.00. Now remember, salaries have returned to pre-recession levels. In fact staff compensation has increased over 12% just in the last three years but fees remain at an all-time high.

2016-17 School Fees  
Child 1 Child 2 Child 3 Total
Bus Fee $150.00 $150.00 $150.00 $450.00
Outdoor Labs $350.00 $350.00
Athletic fee $150.00 $150.00
$150.00   $150.00
$150.00 $150.00
School Fees $305.00 $224.00 $178.00 $707.00
Supply lists $126.00 $78.00 $70.00 $274.00
Meals – 100 days
  Breakfast $200.00 $175.00 $175.00 $550.00
  Lunch $325.00 $275.00 $275.00 $875.00
TOTAL $3,656.00

“Rookie Board” Not Following the Law:

It is also particularly disturbing that this new “rookie board” didn’t even discuss the fees, nor did they approve the fees as is required by state law (22-32-117).  In addition, state law says, “Whenever a board or public school publicizes any information concerning any fee authorized to be collected pursuant to this section, the board or school shall clearly state whether the fee is voluntary or mandatory and shall specify any activity from which the student shall be excluded if the fee is not paid.” I don’t know about many of you, but that information wasn’t front and center as we were paying fees. Nor was it clear which fees were mandatory and which were voluntary.

A little history:

Bus fees adopted at the May 5, 2011 school board meeting, started in the 2011/12 school year and were $100.00 for neighborhood students; fees were raised to $150.00 the following year, a 50% increase and the district raised $3.6 million in transportation fees in 2014-15.

Outdoor lab fees were increased from $199 per student to $300.00 per student for 2011-12.

The campus activity fund which tracks the fees paid for athletics and activities as well as fees and dues raised over $24,000,000.00 (yes that is 24 million dollars) in 2014-15.

Food service raised an additional $10,000,000.00 in 2014-15. Prices of meals went up twice in the last five years.

In 2011, lunch prices went up 50 cents and breakfast went up 25 cents. In 2014, elementary breakfast went from $1.50 to $1.75 and secondary breakfast went from $1.75 to $2.00. Lunches in elementary went from $2.25 to $2.50 and secondary went from $3.00 to $3.25. 

Parents Still Paying More:

The district is now raising millions from the fee increases that have burdened parents over the last five years. The new transportation fees, the increased activity and outdoor lab fees, as well as more expensive meals find parents digging deeper and deeper into their pockets for a free public education for our children. In addition, parents are picking up our part of the $39 million a year mill levy increase.

Staff compensation returned to the pre-recession levels as soon as the 2012 mill levy passed. And again compensation increases have averaged over 12% just over the last three years. We would hope that the fees parents pay would return to pre-recession levels, but so far such is not the case.

Parents are picking up more than our fair share for our children’s free public education. When will it end?