Couple Money

Hidden School Costs to Budget For

public school costs

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Public school is “…maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community or district and that constitutes a part of a system of free public education commonly including primary and secondary schools” according to the dictionary. That sounds great, but if the schools are free why are parents paying so many fees?

The fees are nothing new. As a military family we moved a lot when I was growing up. I remember one school district charged fees to rent the textbooks. But there is a perception that there are more as a result of the poor economy.

We're not talking about costs for extras like yearbooks and prom, but rather items that we expect to be included.


The school district we lived in while our kids were growing up didn't provide buses to school after grade school. We either had to drive them or pay for public buses.

Having to buy a bus pass every month was a hassle and additional expense but the high school was about 10 miles away. It was all a matter of geography because the school district next to us provided buses through 12th grade.

Lab, Technology and Instruction

Science and technology classes require supplies and/or equipment that the typical class does not. Some schools are now passing these higher costs to the students or to be more precise, their parents. Many of these classes are required for students wanting to continue on to universities.

Advanced placement courses, which didn't exist all that long ago, are also bringing in revenue at some schools.

Sports and Extra-Curricular Activities

Students may need more than skill or drive to participate in school sports now. All it used to cost was the price of the physical. Now many schools charge athletic fees which range from $35 to $200 per sport.

Then there is band, cheer-leading, clubs and more activities that also have, you guessed it, fees. Even graduation can have a $30 or higher fee!

One family mentioned in a recent article spent over $4,000 in fees for their four kids to participate in sports, band, classes and activities. This is on top of the property taxes paid that is dedicated to pay for public education.

I understand why the schools are adding costs here and there. Their budgets have been cut by states, cities and counties that have vastly decreased tax revenues. They're trying to figure out how to provide the same services with less money.

That doesn't make it right. Public school should be free; that's the promise we've always had in this country. What's your opinion on public school fees?

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