More On Fees

Tennessee parents not required to pay some school fees

By DENAE D'ARCY 6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A list of fee requests usually comes with the start of a new school year. It may include anything from a lab fee to chorus fees. But some Tennessee parents may not know they aren't required to pay anything extra for their child's classes.

The Tennessee Department of Education clarified the guidelines this year to make sure school administrators know they can't always require parents to pay.

Shannon Sumner is a volunteer at the Teacher Supply Depot in Knoxville, and her daughter and son attend Karns High School.

"They have an individual fee for each class that they're in and it varies this year from $5 to $20," Sumner said.

This year, Sumner has already paid $120 in fees.

She didn't complain but wishes teachers would "be cautious about using the fees correctly and only ask for what is really needed."

Since Sumner is also a PTA member, she understands parents don't always have to pay fees.

When asked if she thinks most parents understand that it's not a requirement, she said, "Probably not."

So when do parents have to pay the fee a teacher asks for?

For instance, if a child is in drama and needs a costume for a production, parents aren't required to pay if it's a credit course.

If the fee is for an extra curricular activity, parents can pay the fee or the student doesn't have to participate.

Knox County Schools spokeswoman Melissa Copeland pointed out the fee policy on the system's website.

It follows state guidelines which read, "School systems may request but not require payment of school fees. No fees may be required of any student as a condition while receiving educational training."

This includes anything that occurs during regular school hours such as field trips, graduation ceremonies and band equipment.

However, the parent and student will have to apply for a fee waiver. There's a process for that, and parents are supposed to be given written notice at the beginning of the year.

There's also a strong argument for paying fees. Sumner points out that school systems are being hit hard and need help from parents.

She also says a student or school could suffer in some way without the additional funds.