Elk Grove District 59 gets rid of instructional fees
Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 students starting next school year won't have to pay any fees to cover the cost of materials because school board members said the district shouldn't charge families for public education.
It's a rare step, since most school districts charge fees to cover a portion of the costs of instructional materials and supplies.
"We as a community have collectively promised our children that they will receive an education that is of sound quality, enriching in its experience, and perhaps most importantly, public and free," said board member Sunil Bhave, in a statement. "Instructional materials are essential to providing a high-quality education, so to assess a fee in this manner would tell the community that our district will not abide by that promise and charge for public education."
The board voted Tuesday on a resolution to implement fees for the 2016-17 school year, but with the board split 3-3, the decision effectively is to have no fees.
Board Vice President Janice Krinsky was absent but has long advocated getting rid of fees. She said Wednesday she was surprised to learn of the board's action, since there have never been enough votes in the past to support her side. Two new board members joined with the board president to provide the necessary votes.
The proposed fees were $35 for half-day kindergarten, $55 for full-day kindergarten through fifth grade, and $65 for sixth through eighth grades. Those numbers represent about the median of fees across Illinois school districts, according to Mike Jacoby, executive director and CEO of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, who said it's not often they're eliminated.
The district will have to come up with an estimated $235,000 to replace the fees, a cost officials hope to absorb through conservative budgeting, said board President Sharon Roberts. If needed, the district could dip into its $140 million in reserves.
Board member Tim Burns said he voted against the fees since he believes they are "subsidizing the unprecedented growth of the reserve fund."
"It is improper to move such large amounts of tax dollars into reserve fund balances while also hitting the parents with instructional fees," Burns said.
Bhave and Roberts said they want to ease the burden on low-income families -- the number of which has grown since the fees were implemented in the 2002-03 school year.
Now 63 percent of student families qualify as low-income, Roberts said.
Board member Mardell Schumacher, who voted for the fees, noted that the district already has to pick up the fees for low-income families who fill out a waiver.