School changes fees and donations policy to comply with the law

January 31, 2019 — by Shama Gupta and Ananya Vadlakonda

Following statewide legislative changes for for fees and donations in public schools three years ago, the school board has prohibited mandatory fees related to educational activities on campus since the beginning of this year.

These legislative changes have made raising money for school activities significantly different — and sometimes more difficult — from in previous years. In the past, families paid a set individual amount for competitions, buses or activities, but now paying money is no longer mandatory. Rather, any money used for a learning purpose has to be either raised by the group or be donated.


New policies

Spelled out in Board Policies 3290 and 6145, the new regulations prohibit students from being charged for anything mandated by the curriculum for any class.

As a result, several issues have arisen. The fees and donations issue, along with legal volunteering restrictions, has affected the athletics department.

According to assistant principal Brian Thompson, the enforcement of the new laws have made it harder to fund buses for sports teams transportation and therefore require more time to fundraise for. In addition, the administration has mandated every volunteer to have a tuberculosis test and fingerprinting done in order for the school to be able to rely more heavily on transportation using parents’ vehicles.

Thompson said that as a result, “we have significantly more volunteers registered at Saratoga than we’ve had in years past.” While more carpooling was a solution some teams have opted for, others also chosen to fundraise more through families and friends — both have which worked successfully.

In addition, several clubs on campus have had to rely on solely donations to fund activities that require monetary support to happen.

For example, science club vice president junior Jeffrey Xu said that in order to host the F=ma physics competition, the total cost was $315. The only way to fund the competition was to request donations, which worked out in the end.

“Because of the new school policy, we had to request $10 donations,” Xu said. “We said that if we weren’t able to raise the money needed, we would not be able to host the competition. I think that motivated the students to pay.”

However, due to the many intricacies to the new policies added, there are several gray areas to the rules.

For instance, in PE classes, uniforms which are $20 and are required. This year, though, students have an opportunity to wear clothes not provided by the school, given that they are still school colors, in order to comply with the change in rules.

“We can’t charge [students] the money [for uniforms] unless they voluntarily want that, but we have to give them the opportunity to wear something else,” Thompson said.

Regarding classes where students make projects using materials provided by the school such as art, students aren’t responsible for assuming the cost of the materials unless the student decides to take the project home.

However, with the more recreational parts of school, including school dances, the school is allowed to charge a mandatory fee for attending because it isn’t directly related to students’ education.

Deeming activities unnecessary falls into the gray area as well. Although school dances are considered recreational, school trips fall into the educationally necessary category.

However, with the school’s increased dependence on donations rather than mandatory fees asked of parents, the policies leave little room for underfunded trips, and there is a higher possibility for activities to be canceled.

“As a school organization, if we know we have a trip and it’s two months from now, we would have to have a financial plan in order to raise money for that trip,” Thompson said. “If we don’t raise enough money, then we would have to cancel the trip.”


SHS’s transition period

In order for the changes to be effective, this school year is purposed to be a transition year.

“The year is an opportunity for us to educate everybody,” Thompson said. “The hope is that as we start the next school year, everybody’s been fully educated and we’ve been able to change our internal processes to make it work in compliance with the law.”

To put the policies into effect, programs like Speech and Debate, Music Boosters, Athletic Boosters and Robotics are being guided by the administration to change their policies, forms and methods.

Teachers have also been educated about the changes. For classrooms, the biggest difference comes with the field trips. Forms given out to students are worded to present a financial plan rather than having a mandatory payment section. They simply present families with the total money needed to hold the trip and provide an individual family’s division of that total cost.

Little changes like these are affecting many different groups on campus.

“We’ve done trainings with all of the administrative group, our teachers on campus, our athletic coaches, our parent groups, our ASB office and our leadership teachers,” Thompson said. “Basically everybody who is involved.