State board considers standardized policy

By Jola Szubielski - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - With more families struggling in today's economy, the state board of education wants to ensure school fees are uniform across the commonwealth and that assistance is being offered for those who need it most.

The state board says it's trying to prevent one thing: denying children access to instructional activities or materials based on their ability to pay for it.

Richmond Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon says her district doesn't charge for lab fees, books, or activities but that isn't always the case. In fact most schools need to tack on these additional fees to supplement shrinking budgets.

Henrico charges class dues, Hanover for gym uniforms, and Chesterfield for hall lockers. But under the state boards newly proposed policy changes, all fee collection schedules would be standardized.

"From district to district there may be different circumstances and we have a very mobile society so it helps to standardize the expectations of the parents and the students," said Brandon.

While they won't set how much schools can charge, they'd mandate what they can charge for; hoping to make sure no child is left out because of their financial situation. Molly Robinson has two girls in the Chesterfield system.

"I think that's fair because some families may have them in different districts. They may be in different schools, it'd be good if they were all equalized," Robinson said.

Of the 83 schools districts surveyed more than a year ago, 64 of them charged fees.

"Parking fees, fees for sports, crew, photo fees... it does add up especially at one time when it comes at the very beginning it's a chunk," Robinson said.

But only 1/3 of those had policies in place for families with hardships. The board is hoping to change that, incorporating a policy to provide for the reduction or waiver of fees for those who need it most.

"If there's a way to help others I think that's wonderful because it's not fair to penalize the kids if they can't afford certain things." said Robinson.

The board will review the proposed changes before passing it on to the governor for review before coming up for public comment.

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