Some of the greatest experiences for high school students involve unique academic events, sports tournaments or band trips.
But all of these cost money.
How funds are raised and spent are crucial components of providing opportunities for students — but those tasks can be complicated.
Rob Smith, assistant superintendent for Alpine School District, explained in a phone interview on Monday that a new law regarding student fees is an adjustment to try to make things work better.
“I think trying to provide more transparency, more understanding of how revenue is coming in and being spent, I think that is the intent,” Smith said. “It’s trying to make sure students have equitable opportunities to participate. Time will tell what impact this will have but in many cases, programs and schools will be operating in similar ways to how they have been operating.”
In 2019, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, sponsored House Bill 250: School Fee Revisions. After going through the legislative process, the bill passed and was signed into law, requiring all school districts to adhere to its guidelines.
“The bill phased in changes to our school fees over a three-year period of time,” Smith said. “We are in Year 1 complying with that. Part of that process is to adopt a compliant fee schedule. All fees, charges, etc., that a school district levies must be reviewed by the board with two opportunities for the public to have comment.”
The second opportunity for discussion of the 2020-21 fee plans for those living in Alpine School District boundaries will be at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, which is scheduled to be held electronically beginning at 6 p.m. Go to Alpineschools.org to participate.
Every school is required to create spend plans for all of its activities and programs.
“The whole goal behind that is to basically create a budget,” Smith said. “Here is the amount of money we are going to get in, here is the source of the money whether from fundraisers or fees, and then here is how we are going to spend it. Each program will be transparent in the way that it receives and spends money for students that participate and their parents.”
The next steps include having the spend plans audited by the State Board of Education in Year 2 with textbook fees being completely phased out in Year 3.
All of these steps have been extensively examined at the state and district levels as efforts have been made to prepare for implementation this fall.
“My staff has been working and developing support,” Smith said. “That has been policy changes for the school board to consider as well as support for schools, program directors, coaches, advisors, etc., having them have a document to follow to be compliant with these requirements.”
The end goal is making sure that kids don’t lose out on opportunities in any of the three areas where schools use fees: curricular (school subjects like English and science), co-curricular (subjects that have both classroom and after-school elements like drama and band) and extracurricular (outside of classroom activities like sports).
“These are some of the things that really connect young people to their school experience,” Smith said. “We want to be sensitive to that while still complying with the rules that come down from policy makers.”
He recognized that there will likely be a learning curve as school districts work through the processes and iron out the wrinkles.
“We’ll do what educators always do,” Smith said. “We’ll respond to whatever comes, we’ll work collaboratively together and we’ll develop solutions. We’ll make mistakes as we’re doing it but we will have successes as we are doing it. We’ll continue to tweak and improve and learn as we go.”
He said there hasn’t been much public response to this point but there will likely be more questions come up as the policies are implemented.
“I think there are people who are concerned, but I think most people are going to say that they are going to continue to run programs,” Smith said. “If they communicate about the program a little differently about how the money is coming in and being used, well, OK. We just want to make sure students have great opportunities to have an extension of school and have pride in their school.”