It’s been over a decade since the B.C. Supreme Court outlawed “school fees” in the public system for course materials, trips, or textbooks required for children’s graduation.
But 15 years later, parents are still paying for fees, workbooks and other materials.
Over the years, Lisa Hartt has shelled out “hundred of dollars” for school supplies for her four children, but she still must buy additional materials from the school to pay for student agendas, field trips and other resources.
Now, Hartt is required to pay for her daughter’s Grade 9 science workbook at Edward Milne Community School in Sooke. It’s one fee too many for Hartt.
“(Parents) shouldn’t have to pay for this stuff so our kids can get an education,” she said. “The materials they need should be supplied by the school district or school.”
Under the School Act, a school district may charge fees for goods and services, including paper, writing tools, exercise books, and other school supplies and equipment intended for students’ personal use. Workbooks used to supplement the core course materials and are written in and kept by students are considered optional.
Every year the Sooke School District board establishes a fee schedule published and shared with families before the school year starts, said Lindsay Vogan, the district’s communication manager. Accommodations are made for families who can’t afford fees.
Hartt did complain to the school about the need to buy a workbook and was told it was necessary to complete the course.
“I was told by the school if I can’t afford it, they’ll provide photocopies. They’re telling you if you’re poor, we’ll pay for it. But that’s not the point,” she said.
Vogan said every school has a process for waiving fees for families in financial hardship.
“We always encourage families to come in and have a chat with their school. We absolutely want to make education as barrier-free as possible,” she said.
Hart decided not the pay for the workbook, but soon her daughter came to her almost in tears pleading for her to buy the workbook because other students in her class had one.
“I don’t think the school district should put parents in a position to pay for something that the school should never ask us to be paying,” she said.
Hart said the issue was never about paying the $12 for the workbook. It’s about the constant money grab from the schools for children to get an education.
“These little things turn into bigger things. Where does it stop?” she asked.