I've been remiss in posting about a followup on the London Free Press' year-long series on fundraising and how many dollars families send to school with their children. The family tallies were published earlier, but last week as the school year was ending Jen O'Brien snagged proposed guidelines and also an interview with Minister Leona Dombrowsky. Article one was the one with the minister, and it was accompanied in print and online by a streeter of sorts with students.
The LFP editorial position on this whole shebang is that no fee is a good fee, and that the Grants for Student Needs and other provincial funding should cover everything. This is a position that has a lot of support.
The guidelines, from my read, attempt to ask boards to make a nuanced distinction between not charging for things like textbooks (although, a refundable textbook deposit— is that a fee?) needed to pass a high school credit and a yearbook fee.
It also encourages boards to have alternatives in place so that students whose families cannot pay are not excluded as a result of an inability to pay (or perhaps, a refusal— I remember when young my parents refused to sell chocolate bars).
I tend to be more nuanced. If kids are to take no money to school for anything, then we shouldn't expect or ask schools to do things like hot dog days, or pizza days. We should stop schools from becoming home-base for charitable causes like the Terry Fox Run, 30-hour famines and disaster-response campaigns such as the 2004 tsunami or the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As to field trips, forget about them. No more bused daytrips to the outdoor education centre, or to the museum. No end-of-year trips to overnight at a outdoor centre / camp. No trips to Toronto, Ottawa or Quebec City.
None of these things could be defined as "essential" for a student's education, but anyone with some experience in educating children knows how these experiences can enhance classroom-based learning an add to what a student learns. Just the same way that fundraising for charitable causes is an important way of putting theory into practice on various social-justice initiatives.
Is a SMART board essential for learning? Should it be ministry funded or fundraised? I think ministry funded, but if that's the case it won't happen as quickly as some parents want, so they fundraise for it.
All the money for all these things flows through a school-based account and gets reported as school-generated funding.
Hopefully these guidelines will moderate some of the more extreme fees that have cropped up in some schools for students to be able to access items that are a core part of the curriculum. Hopefully, they don't start cutting off the other things whose dollars flow through school bank accounts and end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.