As we reported in last week’s Ledger, the Oswego School District Board of Education reviewed a list of potential budget cuts and fee hikes worth nearly $3.2 million during a meeting Jan. 28. A board vote on the administration proposal is expected at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 11.
We were disappointed to see that once again the district is proposing to increase some of the fees it charges parents to enroll their children and teens in selected district programs. You may recall last year at this time, the board approved a package of budget cuts and fee hikes that more than tripled the fees charged for high school students to participate in athletics, going from $75 to $300 per sport, with no cap or discount for students who wish to compete in multiple sports or families with two or more high school students. The board also doubled the fee for junior high school students to participate in sports from $40 to $80 per sport.
Under the pending proposal, the district would hike its registration fee for full-day kindergarten from $300 per year to $550 and increase the tuition for its early childhood program from $320 to $400. The district is also proposing to implement a $700 per year registration fee in its English Language/Dual Language program, and create an evening school course fee of $225 per course for those students taking an evening course in addition to their daytime class schedule.
The fee hikes would also not be limited to the classroom or athletic facilities. The district is proposing to double the current $50 per semester fee for a student parking permit at the district’s two high schools to $100 per semester over the next two years. If approved, permits would cost cost $75 per semester next school year. By the 2020-21 school year, the cost for a parking permit would be $100 per semester or $200 for the full school year.
If approved as proposed, that means the parents of an OHS or OEHS student who participates in two sports and wants to park a car for the full school year in the lot at their school will pay an additional $800 on top of other registration and program fees.
Yes, the fees may be waived for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, live in substitute care or whose families receive public aid. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a full 24.1 percent of the district’s students meet the requirement, but that just serves to shift the full burden for the fees to the remaining 74.9 percent of the district’s students and their parents who do not qualify for fee relief.
State law allows school boards to set and charge the additional fees for materials and consumable items for extracurricular programs. But as the fees rise ever skyward in the Oswego School District, parents continue to bear a greater financial burden, with still no prospect for relief on the school district portion of their annual property tax bills.