By Hailey Auglair | AL.com
Parents of children in Alabama public schools are paying more in required dues and fees than they were five years ago. Some school districts are asking families for much more than others.
Alabama public school systems collected 18% more in required dues and fees in 2018 than in 2015. The total collected went from $40 million to $48 million in five years, according to financial reports.
These required dues and fees include money collected from students for coursework and registration, but do not include supplies for individual students. Since these numbers are reported internally by each school system, there are likely inconsistencies in reporting.
In some districts, this increase was even larger. These fees likely allow for better technology and a wider range of course offerings.
According to state law, “No fees of any kind shall be collected from children attending any of the first six grades during the school term supported by public taxation.” That has been interpreted to mean Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Because of this law, these rates were calculated by dividing the total number of funds collected and filed as “required dues and fees” by the number of students enrolled in the system in grades 6-12.
School districts also are not allowed to collect fees for any courses required for graduation. The definition of required courses under the state law are “courses which are required to be taken by every student enrolled in public schools in the State of Alabama.”
In 2018, Mobile County, with the highest enrollment with 27,990 students in grades 6-12, collected the most in required dues and fees, reporting $5,752,894.98 total. Barbour County, with 383 students enrolled in grades 6-12, collected the least in 2018, reporting $330.45.
Each child on average paid $125.76 in required dues and fees in 2018. However, there is a large disparity between different school systems.
Birmingham city schools collected the least per child last year, reporting $0.30. Shelby County took in the most at $285 per child.
What’s included in the required dues and fees?
Cindy Warner, Community Ed/Public Relations Supervisor of Shelby County Schools, said they include fees for lockers, Driver’s Ed, parking, ID cards, ACT prep courses, AP and honors courses, fine arts classes, science labs, electives, athletics, band, choir, cheerleading and summer school.
Six county systems and 20 city systems had required dues and fees higher than $100 per student. Forty-two county systems and 27 city systems had rates less than $50 per student.
Michael Sibley, director of communications at the Alabama Department of Education, said “The ALSDE (Alabama State Department of Education) does not have the information as to what the LEAs (Local Education Agency) are recording as required dues and fees. All of accounting should follow GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). There is no specific guidance from us as to coding required dues and fees.”