The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board has received a proposal from the administration to increase student fees for the 2014-15 school year.

The recommendations were discussed at the board’s Finance Committee meeting Monday night as a way to ease projected deficits in the district’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.

Currently the general student fee is $90 and the activity fee is $30 for grades kindergarten through fifth grade and $40 for grades six through eight. There is a cap, however, that limits the fee to the first two students in a family.

By removing that cap, the administration projects it would receive an additional $30,000 from the 465 families with two or more students.  The largest family in the district, incidentally, has nine students in school, the committee was told.

Administrative waivers are available, however, for families experiencing financial hardships, and payment plans can be authorized for others, if needed, according to Kathy Zalewski, the district’s business manager. Fee waivers are automatically approved for families that qualify for free lunches.

The administration is also proposing a technology fee of $20 per student ($6 for students receiving reduced lunch), that would generate another $90,000 in revenues, it is projected, that would partially offset the growing cost of instructional technology.

Many of the neighboring districts, including Evanston Township High School District 202, also charge a separate technology fee, the committee was told.

The fee increase proposal could be on the agenda for a vote by the full board as early as its next meeting on April 28.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Two questions:

    Two questions:

    How many students are getting a free lunch?

    Out of the family that has 9 children in the school system, how many live at the same address, are brother and sisters, and how many live in Evanston?

    1. Students on free and reduced lunch

      That information is contained in the district's “Opening of Schools Report.” As of October 2013, 2,323 students were eligible for free lunch and 374 students were eligible for reduced lunch. This totals 2,697 students, or 37 percent of the district’s total enrollment.

      Another interesting statistic from the same report is the number of homeless students covered by the McKinney-Vento Act.

      Here’s what the report says about this group:

      "Students who do not have a fixed, adequate or regular nighttime residence are eligible for services under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Of the served students included in the Fall Enrollment Counts, 353 students are considered homeless. Of these students, 79% are sharing housing, 17% are in emergency or transitional shelters, and 3% are living in a hotel or motel. This year’s total is 54 more students than identified in the 2012-13 Fall Enrollment Counts (299)."

      The district would not disclose information about any specific family in the district, so I can’t answer your question about the family with nine kids.

      1. Claim of shared housing as abuse?

        I don't know what the federal definition for shared housing is in that statute. But are you really homeless if your mom and/or dad and the kids live in grandma's house with her?  Or two related families decide that one will buy a house and the other family will pay rent under the table to the owners?

        I can think of many other scenarios in which the family is in shared housing but is nowhere near homeless. When I rented an apartment with a girlfriend, would my child have been considered homeless because it was shared housing?

      2. The homeless paradox
        If one is homeless in Evanston, one does not “reside” in Evanston. If you don’t have a domicile to go home to in Evanston, then you don’t live in Evanston. I do not have a domicile in Park Ridge, Skokie or Niles. But I am (correctly assumed) not homeless as far as those suburbs are concerned. The paradox of the verbage is that if you are “homeless” then you don’t live here and if you don’t live here, you should not be going to school here. We need to find a better word other than “homeless”. Any ideas NU English majors?

        1. Re: Homeless residents

          Your personal definition of "reside" … which is far narrower than some dictionary definitions, by the way … has no relevance to the legal obligation of school districts to provide an education to students present in the community, whether they have a permanent address or not.

          — Bill

          1. My bad
            I was not trying to say we don’t have a legal obligation to students in the community. I was only pointing out the paradox of the situation. By the way, if it was me personally, I would choose to be homeless in Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth or Glencoe. I believe my “presence” there would afford me a much better education.

          2. Homeless in Winnetka

            To qualify for homeless status, you have to have been previously  "homed" (and registered for,  or eligible to register for,  school ) in Evanston.   When you become homeless, even if your temporary residence is a motel in Des Plaines, you are still able to attend Evanston schools.

            Winneka, I suspect, has few pre-homeless residents.

  2. School Budgets and Checking on ‘real’ residency

    Are the schools actively and accurately checking that the children in the schools actually live in Evanston ?  Are liviing with parents, using an Evanston relative's address or "living" with a relative just to attend Evanston schools ?

    In previous years residents reported a number of cars dropping off student, but non-Evanston city stickers.

    Evanston schools are expensive and should be used for Evanston students—we certainly have enough problems ourselves.

    1. How the district deals with residency

      The district has a procedure for dealing with this problem.

      For one thing, they require new students to submit documents to prove residency, sent either by email, fax, or regular mail.  They also compare families’ addresses against addresses maintained by the U.S. Postal Service.

      They follow up on mail returned by USPS, and they do home visits when there is reason to believe a student does not live within the district. There is federal money provided for the homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

      None of these procedures, of course, is 100 percent effective, so there is some point at which additional efforts are not cost-effective.

      If you happen to suspect someone is violating the residency requirement, you should alert district officials at (847) 859-8000.

    2. legitimate reasons

      There are plenty of legitimate reasons a car not from Evanston would be dropping a child at school.  A few off the top of my head.  Many parents have to go to work so their nanny or other family member take their children to school.  Some kids spend nights with a divorced parent who may live outside of Evanston while their custodial parent is a resident. 

  3. free education

    "Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free."  … a direct quote from the IL Constitution Article X.

    …. why are we paying fees on top of taxes?

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