When I was in the classroom as an art teacher and later as a computer
arts teacher, I had lab fees. The lab fee for the nine week class was
$5 and the semester class was $10. I also had a small department budget
to start the year.
Legally, in my district (in California) lab fees can only be charged for
supplies/projects that are taken home by the student. Also, there must
be a statement in the class syllabus that students and family who can't
afford the fee can request the lab fee from the "helping hands" fund
(funded by the PTA) In reality, I just waived the art fee for the kids
who needed it.
My district went from the once-a-year huge buy of art materials (which
sat in the district warehouse and dried out) to buy-on-demand ordering
as needed (through Office Depot with a 40% discount) This turned out to
be a much better way. I didn't need to find all the money at once and I
could adjust what I needed throughout the school year.
For the art classes, students saved work in portfolios, and as a final
project, took the portfolio home to do a portfolio review with the
parent or guardian. The porfolio review (I had a list of questions) was
returned signed by both the student and parent. That way the portfolio
made it home and was much more appreciated.
In the computer arts classes, I charged the same fee and used it to buy
glossy photographic paper, brochure paper, cardstock, ink for the color
inkjet printer and CD's for the student portfolios. Students could bring
home projects such as digital art, gift tags, Valentine and Mother's
Day cards etc. I timed these projects to go home around Open House and
holidays and often would print out extras for the kids.
I off-set the expense of color ink for the inkjet printer by purchasing
it on EBay (Dutch auctions). Where I would have to pay $25 for a black
cartridge and $32 for color through Office Depot (no discount on ink), I
could buy black for $2-4 and color for $4-8 on EBay! My district would
reimburse me for up to $50 with a receipt, so I made sure the purchases
(including shipping) came in under the $50 mark.
As for the mechanics of collecting the art fees...
There was a statement in the syllabus about having the check made out to
the school or bringing cash. As the art fees came in, I had a supply of
small white envelopes, a pen and a basket stationed next to my desk.
Students were directed to write their name and class period on the
envelop, put the lab fee in, seal the envelop and put it in the basket.
I kept an eye on the basket and at the end of the period grabbed the
envelopes and put a rubber band around them and stashed them away until
I could do the paperwork process.
Having kids put their name and period on the envelope took care of the
problem of checks from parents or guardians with different last names
from the students.
The system worked pretty well and my principal (who was a legal eagle)
was assured that we were in compliance with the rules.
Just my 2 cents worth...
Alix E. Peshette
Technology Training Specialist
Davis Joint Unified School District