2013-05-01 / Front Page

Some students likely to face higher school fees, cuts in services


By Michael Buettner

Doland Doland The state-mandated requirement for all Virginia students to take a course in personal finance has yet to kick in, but some Chesterfield County students are about to get lessons on government finance and the effects of inflation.

School division officials told the School Board last week that they’re filing the required paperwork to receive a total of about $13.5 million in state and federal funds for special education and career/technical education.

But the officials also said some students – mainly those in career and technical programs – will face increased fees next year because of increased costs for materials, services and certifications. And some students in special education may see cuts in services because of a drying-up of federal funding.

Michael Gill, acting director of middle school education and former director of career and technical education, said the fee increases “appear extensive” but noted that “most are optional.”

The largest single increase is $48 for students in the criminal justice program at the Chesterfield Technical Center (CTC) to cover the cost of a cap and a second uniform shirt and an increase in the cost of the first shirt.

Gill said that while the second shirt is optional, it’s recommended because students in the program must participate in emergency exercises and other physically demanding activities.

“At the CTC, all students have a uniform of some kind,” he noted.

That includes students in the carpentry 1 program, who will see an $11 fee increase next year to cover the higher cost of their uniforms and hard hats.

One sizable fee increase applies to students who want to enter a national marketing competition sponsored by DECA, a career-vocational student organization. The cost to compete will jump to $125 from the current $100 entry fee.

Not optional are fees for students in the commercial photography and digital arts/design and 3-D animation courses, which will rise to $75 from $60 because of higher costs for printing student projects. Likewise, students in carpentry 1 and 2 will be required to pay $60 instead of the current $50 fee because of an increase in the cost of lumber.

Funding for career/technical programs in general next year is expected to include $590,000 in federal money and $1.3 million from the state under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Those funds, Gill said, will enable the school system to buy new equipment for some business information technology programs, new online software resources for a nursing program, equipment for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education program, and tool kits and automotive lifts for the automotive program.

The Perkins funds will also help pay for teacher training, Gill noted.

Another federal grant program, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant, is expected to provide $11.3 million for special education, according to Michael Asip, director of special education.

That grant, Asip said, provides the funds to support “more than 200 special education teaching, instructional assistant and liaison positions to provide special education services to students with disabilities.”

However, the money will fall short of what is required to fund some additional services that were previously paid for with funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, the so-called federal stimulus act.

That money ran out in September 2011, and the nine positions it funded – four diagnosticians, three psychology interns and two parttime social workers – were funded through this year with carryover money from previous IDEA grants.

However, Asip noted, the IDEA funds “can no longer support these … needed services and initiatives beginning with the 2013-14 school year.”

Tom Doland, the Matoaca District’s School Board representative, said he had heard some parents of special education students voice concerns about cuts in transportation that might stop some students from participating in after-school activities.

Asip said the school division has been providing transportation for some students who are unable to take part in standard activities such as sports and music programs to offsite locations such as Camp Baker, where they can join in substitute activities intended for special-ed students.

In an effort to keep that service going, Asip said, school officials will be talking with county Transportation Department officials in the near future.

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