parents asked to aid schools with more of their own funds

parents asked to aid schools with more of their own funds

A number of Ontario high schools have begun charging fees for mandatory courses, including English and science, raising questions about fair access to public education.

In a report released Thursday, parent advocacy group People for Education found that 6 per cent of Ontario high schools charged fees for English classes, which are mandatory in every grade, and 14 per cent charged fees for science, in which one credit is required for graduation.

The report comes just hours before the Ministry of Education is set to release new guidelines for school fees. A draft of the guidelines was introduced last year, after parents raised concerns they were being asked to supplement overextended school budgets with more and more of their own funds.

“As school-generated funds become entrenched in school budgets, it will become more and more difficult for schools to go without this private funding,” the report concludes. “But the increased reliance on fees will also inevitably lead to a system of ‘have’ and ‘have not’ schools.”

Some schools raised as much as $90,000 in school fees while others, many with a high proportion of low-income students, raised less than $1,000.

The vast majority of the charges went toward supplies for art and physical education, but they also went toward second-language courses.

Student activity fees, which go toward such things as yearbooks and extracurricular activities, are also on the rise. These fees are up to an average of $38.40 this school year from $22 a decade ago. People for Education estimates that approximately $26-million was raised in student activity fees this year.

The ministry’s draft guidelines state: “Students must be able to participate in school activities and access resources regardless of personal financial barriers. … Fees for course materials and learning activities are appropriate only for enhanced or specialized programming, materials or activities.”

A spokesman for the ministry said that charging fees for mandatory courses would be a violation of the new guidelines, which will be released Friday.

The advocacy group has started a letter campaign to let schools know that they could be in contravention of provincial laws.

Globe and Mail Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011 2:33PM EDT   High-school fees in Ontario raise fears of reduced access to education  KATE HAMMER — EDUCATION REPORTER  photo credit:  theglobeandmail.com