As many you may have noticed, your schools have now stopped charging fees for school classes. Recently, MCPS has made strong attempts to eliminate curricular fees at the county-level. While this is true, the blunt of the effects will now be felt by the students of Montgomery County. At a recent December 3, 2009 SMOB 2.0 Policy Meeting, students spoke to the issues of curricular fees in schools and had a long discussion about its impacts. In general, students understood the need for a free, public education but also understood the opportunities that the curricular fees brought them. Many schools are now cutting back on supplemental labs, art supplies, music equipment, work books, and even assignment books which are now being considered "extra".
In cases such a foreign language, art, music, etc. where materials are needed, the elimination of these fees have forced MCPS, the county, and the state to cut back on the services to these program in these times of economic and budgetary crisis. One student at Montgomery Blair High School replied with an email stating, "The poorest students in MCPS [are] feeling the blunt of the consequences academically because [they] do not have the money or the resources to afford expensive tutors, prep books, and instruments rather than buying the subsidized cost of the materials in [their] schools".
Polling in MCPS Schools by our SMOB 2.0 Staff among high school students in MCPS shows that students have varying opinions on the issue. When asked the question: "Do you think the elimination of fees was detrimental to your academic learning?", county-wide (N=297), 58% of students were against the elimination of the fees, 31% of students were for the elimination of the fees, and 11% were ambivalent about the issue. Specifically at Red Zone high schools, the numbers (N=108) are at about 52% of students against, 30% support, and 18% ambivalent. However, there doesn't seem to be much passion behind this issue. For many students, the issue isn't about fees; rather its about getting every opportunity to learn, regardless of the cost - which is why many of their parents moved to this high cost of living area in the first place.
Despite all this, MCPS continues to be at the top of the country, as one of the best education systems in the nation as we can see in the recent increase in the number of passing AP Exams. So, are the fees good, are they bad? I'll leave that up to you.