School fees: an expensive lesson

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Sticker shock.
That the best way to describe the look on my face as I stared at the computer screen last week, looking at the $929 I was about to pay for my two daughters to go to Evergreen High School this year.
I was so amazed at the figure, I actually got out a calculator, thinking maybe the computer had added incorrectly.
It hadn’t.
Last year, I paid somewhere around $700 for both girls, and I was a little shocked then, too.
So I took a hard look at the itemized list. Honestly, all of the fees seem reasonable. There are no sports fees for either girl. That will come later when the spring sports fees are due.
On the list are fees for Advanced Placement classes, materials fees for art, science, math and photography classes, and workbooks for English and Spanish. How can I argue with them?
Obviously, some fees are optional. I want my girls to go to football and basketball games, so I paid $25 each for activity stickers. I want them to have yearbooks — another $75 each.
Then there’s transportation. For my senior, the $125 parking fee; for my sophomore, the $100 bus pass.
The class of 2012 also instituted a $60 fee, which I’m sure will be used for end-of-year events, since the class-of-2014 fee was only $10. Plus there’s $20 each for technology.
So I did what any self-respecting Evergreen mom would do: I asked other moms what they were paying. The totals I heard ran the gamut from a few hundred dollars to something closer to my end of the fee scale. Some families were forgoing yearbooks and activity stickers. Others were finding creative solutions to get their children to and from schools without paying the bus fee.
My next step was to go to Matt Walsh, principal at Evergreen High. He gave me an itemized list of fees charged for all courses at the school, along with an accounting of which fees had increased since last year. To my surprise, very few fees had increased. I had expected more fees to increase based on all I’d heard about the district’s budget cuts.
“These are pass-through fees,” Walsh told me. “We’re not making money for the school on these fees.”
Students are paying for workbooks that can’t be used a second time and art supplies that need to be replaced, he said.
It became obvious that the amount I had to pay was based on the class choices my girls made. Would it make any sense to limit my children’s choices based on the fees I’d have to pay? No.
The highest class fee on my list is for chorus at $60, followed by painting at $45. Inferential probability statistics and the English 10 vocabulary workbook fees were only $10 each.
Each of the fees alone seems pretty nominal, but add them up, and my checking account is still recuperating from the hit it took.
I have mixed feelings about the fees. On the one hand, I want my children to have a good education and the materials they need for their classes. On the other hand, $929 puts a huge dent in the August family budget, especially when school clothes and school supplies must be added in.
This is just one of the sacrifices we make for our children’s education.
Plus, I figure that next year, $929 will be a drop in the bucket compared with college tuition and room and board fees I will pay. So I guess I will just grin and bear it — and hope the August financial hardship will be worth it in the end with my daughters having a great school year.

Evergreen resident Deb Hurley Brobst is the Courier’s contributing editor.