Montgomery County parents fight school fees
If you are a parent, then you probably know that at this time of the year you often get out your checkbook or wallet to hand over some bucks for all those incidental school expenses ... the workbook, the art supplies, etc.
Well, a group of Montgomery County parents is on the war path to stop these expenditures -- at least some of them.
They are angry over the school system's requirement that they pay some fees for things like workbooks, calculators and lab fees for science and photography. They say the state guarantees each student a free public education and that principals should not be charging these fees.
They asked Elizabeth Kameen, the Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland State Department of Education, about whether the county and specifically Magruder High School should be charging fees.
She wrote back, quoting a 1987 opinion that said: "We cannot say whether Maryland courts would go as far as courts in some states in categorizing the activities that must be offered without charge. But whatever the outer limits of Maryland's 'free public schools' guarantee we are safe in saying that anything directly related to a school's curriculum must be available to all without charge."
Montgomery County school spokesman Steve Simon said, "We absolutly are in conformance with state law. We are adamant that we are providing a free public education."
But Simon said that the county school board is expected to review the policies soon. All required textbooks, he said, are provided by the county, but there are some materials that parents are charged for. "There are a lot more questions about the variety of the fees, and that is a fair question," he said.
If there are students who can't afford the fees, he said, the principal can waive them.
Are there parents or teachers who think these fees are unreasonable?