In Utah, heading back to school doesn’t just include buying new shoes and backpacks. It also means parents forking over hundreds of dollars in fees to register their children at public schools.
“We suddenly had all these fees to send our children to public education,” said Kaysville resident Nettie Francis. “They’re passing the buck off to the families.”
When Francis moved to Utah from Wyoming six years ago, she was surprised to learn she would have to write out a $400 check to enroll three of her children in middle and high schools.
“I said, ‘Well isn’t this a public school?’ And they said, ‘Yes, but we have school fees here in Utah,’” the mother of 10 recalled.
She was even more surprised at how much it would cost to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Those fees were astronomical; they seemed out of control” Francis said. “One of our children wanted to be in marching band, and that was going to be around $2,000.”
Concerns over Utah public schools collecting tens of millions of dollars in fees have prompted two audits to scrutinize the practice that some say creates a pay-to-learn environment.
The first audit, released in April, was completed by the Utah State Board of Education’s internal auditors. It found that schools collected approximately $71 million in fees last year — a 29 percent increase since 2012. That averages out to $250 per student.