Lawmaker pushes to eliminate classroom fees

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Public school is supposed to be free, but some schools are charging fees for things like beakers for the science lab. It can get pricey for parents, and one lawmaker wants it to stop. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, says parents shouldn’t have to pay fees to cover anything in the classroom during school hours. Critics say that if schools were better funded, this wouldn’t be a problem.

“We have to pinch from one bill to another bill to another bill just to make sure the kids have what they need for school,” says Antonio Garcia.

He has six children going to school in Albuquerque.

The costs add up quickly.

“We are even having to pay $35 for my kid to take a class for jewelry and then another $35 for his photography class,” Garcia says.

Other parents can relate.

“Especially if you have one or two kids that are in school,” says Sara Saavedra. “That’s a lot of extra money right there.”

Sen. Brandt says something is wrong with that.

“Our state constitution guarantees us a right to a free public education,” Brandt says.

He is from Rio Rancho, where he says Cleveland and Rio Rancho High Schools charge all students a service fee to help fund after-school clubs and other campus programs. They are not the only schools doing it.

“We have middle schools charging for agendas, for ID badges and they require them to attend. You have to have them,” Brandt says.

So, the senator is introducing a bill to put a stop to it. He says he is not talking about school supplies that parents buy at the start of each year but charges for required classes.

“Lab fees, paying for whatever you’re dissecting for your biology class,” Sen. Brandt says. “They’re asking the families to pay for that.”

The proposal only applies to classes during school hours, so it wouldn’t prevent schools from charging for extracurricular activities like sports.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, says she doesn’t support the bill.

“He’s just scratching the surface with this kind of bill,” she says.

Sen. Stewart says it still won’t address the bigger issue: underfunding public schools.

“I appreciate the senator’s desire to have the schools pay for everything, but if he wants that to happen, we have to pay the schools,” she says. “We have to pay for the education of our students.”

Lawmakers are currently hammering out their budget. Even with less money to work with this year, Gov. Susana Martinez and lawmakers are looking to spend more in the classroom.

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