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School District 20 defends $50 electronic device fee taking effect this fall

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Thursday morning an email blast was sent to most Academy School District 20 families announcing parents and guardians would be responsible for paying a new $50 electronics maintenance fee for the upcoming school year.

Funding allowed Academy School District 20 to buy 11,000 devices recently. However, there are more than double that amount of students enrolled in the district.

According to the district, each student will be charged a $50 fee in exchange for their own district device. The charge will also cover software and minor device repairs. 

Only a handful of schools are not included in the device fee. Students receiving free and reduced lunch are also automatically exempt from the charge. The district says families that don’t receive free or reduced lunch can also speak to their principal if they’re worried about affording the $50.

Still, some parents expressed concerns to 13 Investigates, asking how it’s legal for a public school district funded through personal property taxes to implement fees. District 20 spokesperson Allison Cortez says the district asked families a few years ago how much they’d be comfortable paying in order for every student in 3rd through 12th grade to get their own laptop or iPad. 

Cortez tells 13 Investigates that input from parents dictated the amount of the fee, which was approved by the Academy District 20 School Board last spring. She adds that a number of families communicated concerns so far on Thursday.

“We’ve gotten some feedback, but out of the 26,000, it’s probably 25 folks,” said Cortez.

13 Investigates found the Colorado statute related to public education fees for students in elementary, middle, and high schools. The Colorado Revised Statute on miscellaneous fees in education states in part:

"A board may not require a pupil who has not completed the twelfth grade to pay:

(I) Any fees as a condition of enrollment in school or as a condition of attendance in any course of study, instruction, or class;

(II) Any fees for any course of study, instruction, or class that satisfies the requirements of or transfers the skill, knowledge, or information necessary to meet the requirements of any such course taken for credit, promotion, or graduation.”

Colorado Revised Statute § 22-32-117

However, according to a Frequently Asked Questions page, the charge isn’t exactly mandatory. The district says students in grades 3-12 will have a device checked out to them even if a fee has not been paid. If the fee remains unpaid by the end of August, the laptop or iPad will have to stay at school and won’t be sent home with the student. 

Students can also use their own computers or iPads, but they will still be charged the $50. The district has set aside one device per student so everyone can have equal access to the electronics. Cortez says it also cuts back on the amount of time teachers spend troubleshooting tablets of all different brands.

“It’s a state mandate in Colorado that you cannot take state assessments on your personal computer,” said Cortez. “You have to use a district device to take a state assessment. So this gives a platform that’s the same that you’re learning on.”

School Districts 11 and 49 told 13 Investigates they will not be implementing similar electronics fees for the 2021-22 school year.

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Lauren Barnas

Lauren is an anchor and MMJ for KRDO and 13 Investigates. Learn more about Lauren here.

Comments

25 Comments

  1. Those devices are already being paid for from people’s property taxes. Schools should not be charging independent fees for their use. Even many of the schools don’t pay for their broadband, that’s covered elsewhere too. What are the schools trying to do? Pad their teachers accounts?

    1. It sounded to me like the number of devices paid for is only enough for half of the students. So they’re asking everyone to pay half of the device price to pay for the other half of the students. That makes sense to me.
      .
      I don’t like that they’re asking for any fees on top of taxes already paid. But apparently that’s legal.

      1. “Funding allowed” means that the district set the budget so that it only covered half the computer cost. It’s not like this was an outside directive. It’s like me taking my salary of $2,000 a month and designating $1,500 of it as vacation money, then telling my landlord I can’t pay the $1,000 rent because “funding” only covers $500 of it. The audacity, it’s really impressive.

  2. Textbook:$95
    Computer: $900.
    1000% increase in cost.
    Pay for it and shut up. If you can’t afford kids, don’t have them. The same yahoos that complain about this have no problem paying an $85 per sport athletic fee to watch their boy sit the bench on the football team, or their princess cheer on the team. Get you priorities straight. The same morons complaining about this also had no problem when the district-paid hotspot was installed in their home to facilitate on line instruction. The same idiots complaining about this are the same ones who think education costs don’t increase, and then vote down mil levy overrides, bond elections, support TABOR and Doug Bruce, and won’t vote for a property tax increase of $79 annually. You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.

    1. The point of public education is not to give families a free personal benefit. The point of universal, compulsory, government-financed education (a concept only about 80 years old) is that an educated citizenry is considered a necessary prerequisite to a democratic republic. It also is a prerequisite for a modern free market economy.

      If our democratic and economic systems collapse, the whole nation falls. Schools are a public good, so we all pay to maintain them, communally.

      Whether schools are actually serving that function, and whether using computers is the best way to attempt to do so, are separate questions, of course.

  3. Back in the day when I was in HS we had a lot of fees. Athletic fees, year book, fees, technology fees. We budgeted $200 for each year of HS. $50 for the use of a computer all year is a bargin

  4. Public schools get $10,000 a year, every year, to educate each student. That’s $130,000 by the time that kid graduates high school. What a con job public education is.

    I also love that we have moved education to computer screens. So we tell people to not eat junk food, then get every child in America to eat most lunches and now most breakfasts and even some dinners in a cafeteria that feeds them out of boxes. Then we tell families they are abusive and neglectful if their kids have too much “screen time”, then force students to look at screens for hours every day at school. Some schools have not just moved away from textbooks but have even shut down the school library.

    I can’t believe parents put up with this, but they do.

    1. The PPOR in Academy 20 is not close to $10K. It is in the $7,500 range. The Military Impact Funds, designed to supplement districts serving students who live on Federally funded properties, thus not property taxed locally, have been all but eliminated. Betsy. Gotta love her.

      1. Great Schools still lists average spending per student in the district as $10,295. That could be outdated, of course.

        But page 107 of the district’s published budget lists about $266 million as the general fund available for appropriation, and the story lists 26,000 students in the district. So, about $10,000 coming in per student spendable by the district.

        Page 75 actually lists about $344 million as total revenues, so the real per pupil revenue is probably closer to $13,000 a student, but I think by convention we don’t “count” money spent on things like school construction, etc.

        https://www.greatschools.org/colorado/colorado-springs/academy-school-district-no.-20-in-the-county-of-el-paso-an/

        I’m not familiar with the details of the military program locally, but the program site lists an increase from $30 million a year to local schools in 2017 to $50 million a year in 2020 and in 2021. So the program is not being reduced in funding. It looks from the published budget like the district simply doesn’t have enough military students to qualify, which makes sense as the AFA is the only military installation in district lines and most of the people living there won’t be adults with families, from what I can see.

        https://www.dodea.edu/partnership/impact.cfm

        From the district’s published budget: “While, the District did meet the 20% threshold for average daily attendance of military dependent students for the FY2020-2021 application to qualify for the Impact Aid Supplemental Program, it is not certain this will occur again in FY2021-2022. The District is not anticipating qualifying for the Impact Aid Supplemental Program throughout the forecast period.”

        What you may be looking at is the funding JUST from the state. If you look at page 17, the per pupil funding from the state last year was about $7,500, but this year will be about $8,400. But schools receive funding from state, local, and federal sources.

  5. If the State Statute states they cannot charge a fee, then legally, how are they authorized to charge a fee?
    “If the fee remains unpaid by the end of August, the laptop or iPad will have to stay at school and won’t be sent home with the student.”
    Does that also mean that any homework that is expected to be done on this device is unable to be done since they are unable to take the device home?
    “Students can also use their own computers or iPads, but they will still be charged the $50.”
    Isn’t it illegal to charge a fee to someone that isn’t using the equipment that is incorporated for the fee to begin with?
    “School Districts 11 and 49 told 13 Investigates they will not be implementing similar electronics fees for the 2021-22 school year.”
    Because it is illegal, unethical, and immoral.

    1. Free education from ages 7 to 16 is a legal right in Colorado, as in most or all states. Schools cannot deny a student that free education. That’s the root of why it is illegal to ever have a version of a poll tax for a kid to go to school.

      But if the school can kind of obfuscate the issue to pull in the thousands you note, why not try?

      There are a lot of laws schools are required to follow that they do not follow. It’s kind of like when you have a four year old and you tell him you’re going to the park but have to leave in an hour. And he agrees and says he understands. And he does understand. And in the car he says, before getting out, that he knows you will be leaving in an hour. And when the hour is over, you say it’s time to go and he says, “O.k.!”

      But he keeps on swinging. . . . . .

      1. Do tell. What laws are those, oh wise one. There are about 7 inaccurate statements in your post.

        1. You’re correct, I was wrong about the ages. I knew that parents are required to have their kids in school from 7 to 16, but the schools are required to admit students from the ages of 5 to 21. If there are any other statements you dispute, feel free to be specific. This is the Colorado statute, which is pretty much boilerplate for U.S. education.

          22-1-102. Residence of child. (1) Every public school shall be open for the admission of all children, between the ages of five and twenty-one years, residing in that district without the payment of tuition.

  6. 11,000 devices times $50.00 equals $550,000.00 illegally generated fees per year.

  7. One nice thing about Colorado is the fact that it is a choice state. If you do not want to pay the $50 fee, then choose a different school district. See how easy it is to solve a problem.
    AnotherMindless Zealot will be able to spend his $50 at Starbucks or McDonalds, Marie can keep her children firmly rooted in the last century with no computer experience, Viral Thoughts and cwajga’s kids will be technologically advanced and workforce/college ready when they graduate high school. Just like that everyone is happy.

    1. School choice is a good fallback for emergency necessity, but the neighborhood school district “belongs” to the community it is housed in, not to the people paid to work there. The people who live in the community have a right to direct the school, they should not have to see their children driven out of the neighborhood to other districts because of the decision of the people they pay to do the work for them.

    2. And, very obviously, there is a vast difference between teaching students Python or C++ and having students pretend to read textbooks off a screen instead of a page.

      Schools that check the box of “we teach computer science” by handing students tablets to stare at all day are less likely to be educating them for actual software development careers.

      Good schools both teach students how to usefully use computer technology and how to protect themselves from being used by it. Bad schools fool parents into thinking their kids are being taught how to be tech savvy when they are only being taught to be screen addicted. Very bad schools charge parents for the privilege of being deceived.

      1. Who said anything about teaching computer science or software development? I am referring to being ready to participate in the 21st century. If kids go to college, computer literacy is mandatory at any decent school. Many colleges have gone to using e-textbooks and written work is often submitted electronically. If a student majors in the physical sciences there are a plethora of computer programs students will be expected to use anything from basic Excel to MatLab. By the way, kids are already screen addicted long before they get to school. Their parents are also screen addicted, if you doubt that just go watch a young family at dinner in a restaurant-they are all on their phones.

    1. Well, my comment disappeared, but the short answer is yes.
      Also, maybe the heat, electricity, water, trash disposal bills that didn’t get paid when the schools were closed might go to this?

  8. More like California everyday. Schools got an insane amount of stimulus money. But instead they want to charge parents who may not be working due to covid

  9. The tax base that made D20 great 10-15 years ago has now moved to other districts, like D-49.

    1. I doubt that. Who is paying taxes then over in d20? It’s not like there are vacant houses

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