Student fees hot topic at Austintown BOE meeting

By Susan Tebben


School board members spoke out Tuesday about fees that are charged yearly to all students, saying that some parents and teachers have been vocal in their opposition to them.

The parents’ main complaint has been the withholding of grade reports and the shutdown of the online grade program because of outstanding fees, board members said.

The fee being discussed is a $20 per year fee charged to cover costs of general supplies in the district, such as paper and workbooks. The fees bring in about $48,000 per year, board member Harold Porter said, which later was confirmed by board member Dave Schnurrenberger and director of instruction Dan Bokesch.

For those who are eligible for the reduced-lunch program, the fee is reduced to $10 — and those in the free lunch program don’t have to pay at all because of state law.

“We do not make people pay to play, but we do make them pay to learn,” Porter said during board comment at the meeting.

Porter said he is not in favor of pay to play, but that the district’s administration are “poor stewards with our money.” The fees are not illegal, but unconstitutional, Porter maintained.

“These fees are not uncommon and ... they are not unconstitutional,” said Schnurrenberger, adding that a payment plan is in place for those who wish to use it.

The fees were instituted after a levy failure in the 2007 election, board members said.

Each building has a general supply budget into which the student fee goes, said Superintendent Vincent Colaluca. The district spends about $50,000 a year for copy paper, Colaluca said, on top of construction paper and other supplies. Whatever is not paid by the student fee is taken out of the general fund, Schnurrenberger said. Other fees are charged for elective classes as well, such as materials needed for wood shop or elective science classes. The district is required to pay for textbooks.

“It’s not fair to those that pay the fees to not do these things [penalize late payments],” Colaluca said.

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