Wade suggests charging parents for textbooks

June 17, 1997


Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade said Tuesday that parents should be required to pay for their children's textbooks and bus transportation to help ease the cost of education for taxpayers.

"Everybody always wants more for education but nobody is willing to pay for it," Wade said in an interview. "If parents want better books, I think they ought to be willing to pay for it."

Wade brought up the issue in a meeting with the Washington County Board of Education.

The suggestion didn't sit well with school board member Doris J. Nipps.

"I believe the community has to provide an equal opportunity for everyone in this county," she said. "Charging for textbooks and transportation to and from school just bothers me.


"I'm afraid if we start having the ability to charge for textbooks, we'll be breaking the school down into (social) classes," Nipps said. "I would consider ads on buses and on baseball fields before I would consider that."

School Board President B. Marie Byers said the state doesn't give the school board the authority to impose fees for textbooks.

"Maybe textbooks is not a good example," Wade said.

But Wade said other states and communities have imposed such charges, and said if the school board doesn't have the ability to charge parents, it should lobby state lawmakers for a change in the law.

Wade said after the meeting that although he is in favor of charging parents for textbooks and bus transportation, that wasn't his primary emphasis. He said he was pleased that the school board has raised activity fees to pay for increasing costs and said such action should be carried over into other areas.

"It's going to be years before the state realizes that that's the way communities are going to have to start going," he said.

The commissioners gave the school board about $50.2 million toward its $104 million operating budget and $2.1 million technology budget for the coming fiscal year.

Wade said he continued to favor a proposal he made several years ago that would have parents pay an annual $135 fee per child in school. Such a fee which would generate more than $2 million a year for new school programs, he said.

"Nobody with any guts had any willingness to stand up for it," he said.

Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he disagreed with Wade. "We're starting to tax and fee people to death," he said.

"We increased landfill fees, we increased taxes, we increased recreation fees. The community can only take so much in fee increases," he said.

Bowers said the way to free up more money for education wasn't by raising taxes or fees but by eliminating outdated programs.

"Everybody doesn't have the latitude and the wealth to pay all these types of increases," he said.

Wade said he didn't buy arguments that some parents couldn't afford the fees. "I can take you down to the Sheetz store any day and show you poor people buying cigarettes for $1.50 a pack, so everybody's got the money," he said.

Commissioner John S. Shank said he favored fees for extracurricular activities, but not for basic education.

"Anything that has to do with basic education the county should provide...I feel that that's what we pay taxes for."

Shank said people who can't afford fees for extracurricular activities should get scholarships, possibly through school booster clubs.

The Herald-Mail Articles