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Ex-superintendent sues 115 school districts over student fees

A former Idaho School District Superintendent is fighting back against the school system.

Russ Joki of Nampa filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming today’s education isn’t free or equal, which violates the state constitution.

The class action lawsuit argues that public schools are going against the state constitution by charging students fees for what is supposed to be a free education, and asks for $2.5 million reimbursement for the fees.

“As a school, we put all the emphasis we can on providing a free and appropriate education for our students,” said Heath Jackson, assistant principal at Hillcrest High School.

But school leaders said education has evolved and the student fees are necessary, especially after facing budget cuts the last couple of years.

“At times, we’re not able to cover the necessary supplies or travel expenses, depending on what type of activity it is,” said Jackson.

While sports come with the biggest cost to parents, fees for specific classes like cooking and woodshop can range anywhere from $5 to $25 per class.

“For some of those classes for them to continue, it’s essential that some of that expense is offset for the student to be able to continue taking those classes,” said Jackson.

The required fees for high school students include a book deposit, a towel for P.E. and a student handbook.

There are also optional add-ons such as a parking pass if the student drives to school, a locker fee and yearbook.

If the student is an athlete, there is a participation fee and the need for a student activity card.

“You have to do a cost benefit analysis of the fees versus you know, if they don’t have anything to do and they’re out getting in trouble and things like that,” said Kaaren Parsons, a mother of two.

Parsons said it’s a steep cost to have her children involved in academic clubs and sports. On average, the Parsons family will spend about $1,000 and they said it’s all about sacrificing.

“It’s just choices. If we cook instead of going out to eat and that means they can be in the activities they want to be in, then that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” said Parsons.

In addition to the student fees, the lawsuit also disagrees with the school supplies lists.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average family spends around $700 on back-to-school shopping every year.

If you cannot afford to pay the fees, school administrators said, you can contact your school to set up a meeting and work something out, and they will work with you.

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