Utah Code Regarding School Fees (A Simple Translation)

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We’ve had lots of discussions regarding what is and is not legal with regard to school fees and fundraising. Everyone seems to have a slightly different opinion and so in this article we’re going to break down the Utah State Code regarding fees and spell out the facts. Clean and simple.

Utah Administrative Code: Rule R277–407. School Fees.

It’s a friendly little piece of literature — See for yourself, but it’s a big rule, and I’m not here to regurgitate all of it. I’m just going to give you the highlights. I’ll reference certain places, so don’t hesitate to fact-check me every now and again if something doesn’t jive with what you may have heard somewhere else.

No Fees for Elementary (K-6)

Right out of the gate, the very first point states:

No fee may be charged in kindergarten through grade six for:

(a) materials;

(b) textbooks;

(c) supplies, except for student supplies described in Subsection (6); or

(d) any class or regular school day activity, including assemblies and field trips.

Simple Translation: Elementary schools can’t collect fees.

So this forces us to go back to the DEFINITIONS — so we can answer the question: Well what exactly is considered a fee? (OH, and by the way, anywhere you see LEA that stands for Local Education Agencies, but you can just substitute School District or School. LEA = School)

(3)(a) “Fee” means something of monetary value requested or required by an LEA as a condition to a student’s participation in an activity, class, or program provided, sponsored, or supported by a school.

(b) “Fee” includes money or something of monetary value raised by a student or the student’s family through fund-raising.

Simple Translation: Any time something valuable (like money or supplies) is required, fund raised, or even requested by a school AND (importantly) the student MUST contribute in order to participate — that’s a fee.

So elementary schools cannot ask for fees, donations, or supplies IF the donation is required for participation. This does NOT, however, outlaw requesting voluntary donations of money or supplies as long as students who don’t contribute still get to participate just like everyone else.

If a teacher wants to ask for supplies, or that a student bring his or her own supplies, they must include this exact message in their communication:

NOTICE: THE ITEMS ON THIS LIST WILL BE USED DURING THE REGULAR SCHOOL DAY. THEY MAY BE BROUGHT FROM HOME ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS, OTHERWISE, THEY WILL BE FURNISHED BY THE SCHOOL.

You Can’t Request or Accept Donations to Get Around Fees Except…

Section R277–407-7

(1)(a) A school may not request or accept a donation in lieu of a fee from a student or parent unless the activity, class, or program for which the donation is solicited will otherwise be fully funded by the LEA and receipt of the donation will not affect participation by an individual student.

(b) A donation is a fee if a student or parent is required to make the donation as a condition to the student’s participation in an activity, class, or program.

(c) An LEA may solicit and accept a donation or contribution in accordance with the LEA’s policies, but all such requests must clearly state that donations and contributions by a student or parent are voluntary.

Simple Translation: If a parent/student has to pay to play — you can’t just disguise it as a donation, because it’s a fee by definition. Specific verbiage is required when asking for donations. Here’s what you have to say:

Donations and contributions by a student or parent are voluntary.

(4) An LEA shall direct donations provided to the LEA through the LEA’s foundation in accordance with the LEA’s policies governing the foundation.

Simple Translation: Donations need to be routed through the foundation based on district policy.

Fundraising Needs Approval

Section R277–407–10

(1) An LEA governing board shall establish a fundraising policy that includes a fundraising activity approval process.

Simple Translation: District policy must include a process for fundraisers to get approved. This would require that school districts provide a fundraising approval process.

Who’s on the hook?

Section R277–407–16

(1) The Superintendent shall monitor LEA compliance with this rule:

Simple Translation: This goes to the top.

When does this go live?

Section R277–407–17

(1) This rule will be effective beginning January 1, 2020.

Simple Translation: Go Live = January 1, 2020

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash