But after years and years of the ongoing confusion, for parents, over what school fees are required, which ones are voluntary, and how it relates to the free/reduced lunch waivers, the Tennessee Board of Education finally rendered an opinion on the matter.
The Tennessee Board of Education finally addressed the issue in January of 2009 and in response to a Williamson County School request for clarification.
The Tennessee Board of Education stated that:
"School fees are governed by state law and rule, and local board of education policy. Only those fees authorized by the local board of education may be charged, and payment of "school fees" may not be a condition to attending the public school or using its equipment. (TCA § 49-2-110(c)).
In other words, no student may be required to pay school fees as a condition of attending school. Statutes (TCA § 49-2-114) and State Board of Education Rules define what may be included in school fees. State Board Rule 0520-1-3-.03(14), available online.
This rule notes, for example, that schools may request, but no students may be required to pay a fee "for activities and supplies required to participate in all courses offered for credit or grade, including interscholastic athletics and marching band if taken for credit in accordance with local board policies."
The official final School Fee Policy document was filed with the State of Tennessee in April of 2009 and went into full effect on August 28th, 2009.
One has to still wonder why this entire policy ever needed to be addressed in the first place. Why? Tennessee's state constitution guarantees a free education and the Tennessee Board of Education's original policy was in direct conflict with our state constitution. Why were school districts ever allowed to impose these fees in the first place? Why did the Tennessee Board of Education continue to remain silent for so long?
Should parents pay all of the so called "requested" school fees?
That's really an individual choice but I would have to say yes, you probably should if you can afford to. Simply put, this is not the fault of the classroom teachers yet they will be the ones to suffer which, in turn, will ultimately carry down to the students.
What about next year's fees and beyond? Who knows? That choice will, according to the state policy on school fees, be left up to the all of the school districts to either budget in and/or for those informed parents to decide upon.
School Fees in Tennessee - Annual Updates
Every year since the Tennessee Board of Education rendered an opinion on the School Fee Policy, in 2009, I've went back annually to review and update any major changes that have occurred in the local Middle Tennessee school district policies on school fees from the previous years.
Fours years after the official ruling on school fees, some Middle Tennessee School Districts are still trying to collect school fees from parents. While most do have written policies in place regarding school fees, many schools and a few districts, as well, are not clearly notifying parents that these so called fees are, in fact, donation requests.
While some Middle Tennessee School Districts continue to have some minor issues/difficulty in clearly defining and addressing the fee policy, most all have replaced/changed their policy wording regarding school fees to include the words donations and/or requested fees - although most individual schools still do not clearly notify parents that these fees are donation requests.
So far, it looks like a majority of the school districts still haven't notified parents about school fee changes as required by the Tennessee Department of Education in 2009-2010 school year nor have they given parents any options to not pay their so called, "required fees" for the 2010-2011 School Year.
I found a mixed sampling of how the Local Middle Tennessee School Districts as well as those from East & West Tennessee have (or have not) addressed the school fee policy. The results ranged from prominently posting the new no fee policy to the mandating of school fees.
School Fee Policy Sources & Information
- Tennessee Secretary of State Documents & Details
Agency: Board of Education
Rule Number: 0520-01-03
Rule Title: Minimum Requirements for the Approval of Public Schools
File Date: 4/30/2009
Effective Date: 8/28/2009
Rule Type: Proposed Rule
Last Date to Request Hearing: 6/15/2009
Rule ID: 4184
Sequence ID: 04-15-09
Pending Rules Rule Findings
- Tennessee Department of Education Documents & Details
FAQ - School fees
2009 Final Reading - Regarding School Fees
2009 Former Student Activity Funds - Fees Interpretation
2010 Former Student Activity Funds - Fees Interpretation
- Further Reading
School Fees in Tennessee - Requested or Required
Annual Report on School Fees in Middle Tennessee
Report on School Fees in East & West Tennessee