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Fees in public schools Bouman, Claudette Eunice


This study investigated fees in public schools in seven school districts of British Columbia. A conceptual framework was formulated from issues in the literature on privatization, principles of taxation, school fee law and practices, and the public/private sectors of education. The framework was then applied to study the occurrence of school fees in public education and their effects on students. Purposive sampling techniques were employed to select districts, schools, and personnel for the study. Selection criteria included size, wealth, location and ethnic composition of districts and schools. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of fifty-four professionals including school district officials, school administrators and teachers. The data were analyzed using qualitative techniques. Explanations for current fee practices included: 1) financial and budgetary limitations; 2) the philosophy of users' pay; and 3) an educational policy on voluntary educational pursuits. Fees as a source of revenue to maintain, improve and introduce educational services occurred in four categories: curricular, extracurricular, incidental, and supplementary and special. Administrators at the district and school levels emphasized that fee waivers, bursaries and reimbursements could be applied where necessary. However, costs could not always be absorbed by the school and, needy students were not always easily identified. Schools varied in the degree to which they experienced fee administration difficulties. Most principals indicated that the elimination of all school fees would result in curtailment or discontinuation of certain activities and items. Educators agreed that psychological and social effects from charging fees were also important concerns. Main conclusions are: 1) the benefit principle and ability-to-pay principle are both used to justify school fees; 2) school policies and laws define the application of fees according to required and non-required curricula, thus fees are encountered chiefly for course electives and voluntary activities; 3) by charging fees, schools are able to provide resources necessary for student programs and activities; 4) fees can negatively impact on student participation and psychology. Two policy directions are suggested based on the principles of benefit and abilityto- pay: the maintenance of current levels of fees and the augmentation of fee in public schools.

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