Public Education: No Longer Free

high school band money CBS/AP

Before Chuck Bandman can strike up the Viking Junior High School band in Gurnee, Ill, it costs each kid a $60 user fee. They simply can't play unless they pay.

For Kirk Gagliardo, playing the sax cost him a place on the track team, which, as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, costs even more than music.

Gagliardo wanted to go out for cross country, but his mother Karilyn wasn't spending the $145 fee.

She told him, "You just get your little feet out to that bike path and start running."

She wants her three sons to explore every opportunity, but with a fee on sports, music and just about any extra-curricular activity, she had to draw the line. She also went back to work as a school nurse only to find her part-time salary barely pays the activity fees her boys are racking up.

"I am feeling really bad about the kids that maybe didn't sign up for band because maybe this check couldn't be written," she says.

For Franklin Alrich, the check isn't being written for him. He's an A-student at Dundee Crown High in Carpentersville who plays four sports.

It's costing him more than $400 just to stay in the games. He's taken on a job to pay the fees.

"I dont want to be a burden on my parents," he says, adding that he's going to make sure his fees are paid.

"I don't care what it takes, I'll work," he says. "I am still going to do what I have to do to get the money."

In 40 states, public school systems are charging these "pay to play" fees instead of raising property taxes. There's a charge for just about everything from sports, to drama, to band and anything beyond the basics.

Markham Jeep, the President of the Gurnee school board, which imposed fees rather than lose after-school activities, says it's not a perfect solution.

"We are three weeks into the school year and we are about 50 percent off in every program," says Jeep. He blames the fees.

Partcipation is also down at Alrich's school. His team has lost 18 players since since the $100-a-sport fees were put in place. His coach Chuck Feldman says you can't buy what kids learn out here.

"Kids are going to learn discipline and life skills," says Feldman.

Only one state, California, has banned these fees. That state's supreme court ruled they violated the state constitution's guarantee that public education be free.

Jeep, a lawyer, is concerned about a legal vulnerability.

But for now, the biggest loss may be in the message to the next generation: that money talks, and as Alrich says, "That's life, and life's not fair right?"
  • Jaime Holguin

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