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Opinion: School fees put up barriers for students

The full cost of field trips, graduation ceremonies, the arts, sports, scientific calculators, lab coats and safety glasses, need to be covered in each school’s budget.
SchoolDistrict57

A quick look at school websites tells me nothing has changed since I last wrote about school fees.

We take pride, as we should, in our free market and meritorious society that facilitates our social mobility. Because of our economic system, even those who find themselves poor do not stay in that position through their lifetime, in fact, only about ten percent do, so for the vast majority of Canadians, if we are poor, it is usually only for a short time.

For children though, their formational years are short, and if they fall within the time that their parents are poor and unable to fund the “extra” curricular activities that make school fun, they disengage from school and segregate themselves to avoid the embarrassment of disclosing their family’s financial status. This disparity is wrong and this should not be allowed to continue. A student’s status and social capital in a publicly-funded school system should not depend on their family’s financial situation that year.

The full cost of field trips, graduation ceremonies, the arts, sports, scientific calculators, lab coats and safety glasses, need to be covered in each school’s budget.

If sports are too expensive for schools without charging families anywhere from $100 to $2,000 per year per student, why not change how we do school sports? Why not reduce the costs of delivery of these programs by having school teams compete against the other schools in the city, and then one (free to the student) sponsored city team made up of the best players that would travel?

When not every student cannot go to see, touch, and feel, the most interesting part of a class that the entire class has been working on, that’s not equality. If field trips or art programs are too expensive, why not reduce the costs or number of trips each year, so that every child can go regardless of their family’s financial flexibility that year?

The shiny new SD57 Strategic Plan 2021 - 2026 is titled "The Pathway to a Diverse Learning Community with Purpose, Options and Choices for All." The goal of inclusion is listed as meaning: “We ensure all students contribute and participate in all aspects of school life.” The document is full of words like “all students,” “inclusion” and “access for all,” “reconciliation,” “opportunity;” the kind of words which sound really good and tick all the boxes.

The words are great, but this week, if you see fees attached to activities in school, you will know that the strategic plan is simply one of those documents that a great deal of time and money was spent on writing but will accomplish very little. It will look good on the shelf and folks will pat themselves on the back for having written it.

However, little Sophie won’t be taking chemistry, Kim won’t be joining band, and Kyle won’t be graduating because “the ceremony is stupid.” They may not be able to explain why but growing up poor, you learn how to avoid things that cost money without admitting your family doesn’t have any. It’s called survival.