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SENATOR EXPRESSES OPPOSITION TO SCHOOL FEES

Aug. 22, 2003 – Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste has written to Education Commissioner Noreen Michael about complaints he has received from parents of schoolchildren concerning fees they are being asked to pay as the academic year gets under way.
At the elementary level, the assessments are $70 to $80, covering "items ranging from PTA dues to workbook fees," he said in the letter dated Aug. 22. "I understand those fees may be considerably higher at the junior and senior high school levels."
He told the commissioner: "While I am aware of government's fiscal challenges, I find it unconscionable that the Department of Education would choose to burden parents with an increased cost of public education at such a time as now."
Citing an "unofficial unemployment rate" of about 20 percent on St. Croix, increases in utility rates and taxes, and "unaffordable" insurance premiums, Jn Baptiste asked Michael: "Commissioner, can you imagine the plight of an unemployed single parent with five children in school having to bear the additional cost of $400 in order to provide a public education for those children?"
He raised the possibility that the fees "might be an infringement of our children's right to a free public education" under V.I. law and urged that Michael reconsider the fees and "explore the feasibility of utilizing federal funds in order to purchase supplemental school supplies, including workbooks."

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