Letter: Time to put an end to mandatory school fees

schoolbooksAs a parent of three, I know how exciting it is for families when a new school year starts. Along with the smell of fall leaves in the air, there are new backpacks, supplies, schools and classrooms, and optimism for the start of another year of learning.

At the same time, many parents suffer shock when they find themselves forced to open their cheque books to pay for mandatory school fees. They have different names and are often craftily disguised as registration, textbook or instructional fees, to name a few.

Mandatory school fees are fees associated with attending school – like photocopying, lunch time supervision or using a locker. Costs for additional activities like field trips, extra-curricular programs and transportation are over and above these mandatory fees.

Depending on where a family lives, these can cost up to $300 per child, and in families with several children in school, it adds up fast.

These mandatory school fees are a hidden tax and an undue financial burden on parents, who already work hard and pay taxes to fund education in our province.

The core of the problem lies at the feet of the PC government. School boards are constantly squeezed for funding, and they are forced to look to parents to cover their shortfall.

This is unfair to parents, who are already facing high costs associated with raising young and growing families. Public education isn’t free – Albertans are already paying for it through their taxes.

I believe Alberta parents deserve to keep more, not less, of their hard-earned money. The PC government needs to stop nickel-and-diming parents and look for ways to make life more affordable for Alberta families.

A Wildrose government would ensure that parents do not have to pay mandatory school fees to send their kids to public, Catholic or public charter schools.

We’ve stood by this for years.

We understand that Alberta families are a primary source of our province’s energy and economic strength.

And if you’re wondering if it makes sense to scrap school fees while the province continues to run a deficit and borrow billions of dollars, let me give you some perspective.

Just over a month ago, the PC government found an extra $55 million to hand out to high level managers and PC staff. That’s about the same cost as putting an end to mandatory school fees.

Imagine if we had a government that used resources based on the priorities of families.

Instead, we’ve seen hundreds of millions spent on corporate welfare and government pet projects like the Premier’s penthouse suite, otherwise known as “Skypalace”. We’ve seen eye-popping sole sourced contracts landing in the laps of PC party donors, when an open-bidding process would have fetched Albertans a far better deal. We’ve seen sweetheart severance deals for political staffers when our school boards are strapped for cash.

Setting clear, transparent goals and living up to your promises shouldn’t be that hard.
We’ve set up a petition at wildrose.ca/endmandatoryfees where families can tell the government how they really feel about this hidden tax.

Together, I believe we can finally put an end to having to take a dip out of our bank accounts every September.

Bruce McAllister
Wildrose Education Critic
MLA, Chestermere-Rocky View

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  1. While I don’t like the idea of school fees for young families, I also don’t like the idea of higher taxes. And now that my own kids have finished school, I like the idea even less. Could you please tell me where Wildrose intends to get the money to eliminate these school fees? Higher property or corporate taxes? Selling in-school advertisement? Fundraisers? Increased chocolate almond/meat/popcorn sales? My property taxes are already too high and the rest are annoying. Something that Wildrose continually fails to do, arguably the number one reason why they were not elected, is explain exactly where the money for their magic pill solutions will come from. ‘Change Alberta’s health care to a European model’ was the last election mantra. When Linc Byfield was asked at the Morinville Candidates’ Forum what that would look like and the cost, he danced, blamed the Conservatives, but didn’t answer the question. If you can tell us exactly how a Wildrose government would pay the elimination of school fees, maybe more people will vote for you. Let me give you an example – doing some quick math, the school population stated by the Province of Alberta (2013/14) is 657,811 times the $300 per child you quote is $197,343,300. $300 is high for a child in grades 1-5, so I’ll round it down to $100 million. That’s still almost double the $55 million you mention above that would have supposedly solved the school fee problem. Thus, you’re at least $45 million (low ball) short. Where is it coming from? Don’t worry, the Conservatives or Liberals won’t steal Wildrose’s ideas. If I can do the math, they can, too. I think that we would all love to hear a specific answer. Anything less is political rhetoric and not worth voting for.

  2. I am like you Brent, yet I will be blunt about this issue. My kids have all grown up, I don’t have to pay these fees any longer. Like yourself, I am in a position to be completely selfish when it comes to contributing to school taxes. I put three kids through the system and hated paying the fees every school year. One could take a stand (which many do), and not pay the fees. Yet your child is restricted from taking part in most of the school activities if you don’t, which tends to ostricize them among their peers.
    Having said this, I would still choose to pay a tax increase in lieu of these fees. There are plenty of families who cannot afford the fees, which may result in children not being on a level playing field with those who have the funds. I would rather my taxes go to fund infrastructure, education and healthcare, rather than meeting/concert halls etc, and private consultants.

  3. In every Alberta school board I’m aware of, school fees aren’t mandatory. For families who can’t afford them, they can be waived. I could give examples where this is the case, including the big ones – Edmonton Public, Calgary Board of Education, etc. I’m not sure if this is legislated across the province or not, but feel free to give a counterexample if there is any school board where they truly are mandatory. I think the author of this letter loses a lot of credibility by basing his entire premise on misinformation.

    • Can’t speak to other places. I can recall that, in Morinville, one could opt out of paying the required fees. Since truancy is illegal, the school had no choice but to allow this. It was the student who paid the price though, because the ones who didn’t have their dues paid were not allowed to participate an many extra-curricular school activities, if any.

  4. I think it is disgusting that any family should have to pay “school fees”. This is complete BS. Kids should not have to pay for a locker or supervision at break times! Next they will be charging for seats in the classrooms (more money for a seat at the front where you can hear the teacher!) and the storage spots for their school bags! Where will it end? These kids are our future, give them an equal playing field to complete their schooling, not the have and have not’s! I blame all levels and all parties of government for not ensuring that our children have the BEST educational system available to them. Money is found for government trips to world events, donations are made to third world countries in obscene amounts while OUR kids do without! Shame on all forms of government, provide for citizens of Canada first, anything left over, give to your hearts content. Perhaps we can get the photo radar fund to pay for these “school fees” for the kids of Morinville. That would be more worthwhile than paying off the white elephant, of course it would throw a big wrench into the council of the days plans for future expansion of Morinville without raising taxes !!! Bottom line !!

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