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‘September is a ramen noodle month’: Your stories on Alberta school fees

Click to play video: 'Calgary school fees among highest in Canada' Calgary school fees among highest in Canada
A Global News investigation shows school fees paid by some Calgary families are some of the highest in Alberta and right across the country. As Mia Sosiak reports, more and more families are struggling to pay those fees – Sep 14, 2016

It’s back to school, and for many Alberta parents, that means a big bill.

A growing number of people in Calgary are having trouble keeping up with school fees, including widow Althea Adams, who was charged $1,300 in fees for her two sons.

READ MORE: Calgary widow with $1,300 school fee bill waiting for provincial relief with no timeline in sight

The NDP government had campaigned on cutting school fees in half, but has yet to fulfill its election promise. Global News spoke with Education Minister David Eggen on Tuesday, and he said that his government is committed to keeping its promise during its mandate – but he would not provide a more specific timeline.

Global News heard from many people who are having trouble with school fees. Here are just a few of the comments we received from our readers:

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Jennifer Pedersen

We cannot pay the fees. It’s too much. Manitoba does not pay these fees. They do not pay for bus or noon supervision. My children go to the designated schools and we still pay an insane amount of money. It’s unacceptable for a public school system.

Kelly Mooney

I am a single mother of two girls, 12 and 14. I just graduated from university and I do not receive child support (deadbeat dad). My kids and I have been living off student loans for the past four years and I have been in collections with the CBE for the past four years.

As with every year I have applied for fee waivers with no relief. This year like years past I applied, in mid-August, and have yet to hear back. My youngest daughter’s school is already hounding me for payment and yet again I have to go through the humiliating process of explaining why I can’t pay, not to mention how embarrassed my children feel when the school involves them by asking them to “pass along the message” that I didn’t pay yet.

Ron Belland

I think school fees are just a cash cow! I have two children in school. One is in her last year of high school and the other in grade 9. The amount of fees paid these days by parents is atrocious. Pens, pencils, erasers, boxes of tissue, paper, binders, glue, band aids, laptops and the list could go on and on.

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WHY DO WE PAY TAXES??? What do our taxes pay for, where is the breakdown of costs allocated for schools? I feel terrible for a family who has financial trouble trying to educate a child.

Michelle Christopher

Not having a problem but object to the way this has been reported. School fees here are actually $30 per child. The rest is supervision and transportation. What is the justification for the taxpayer having to bear the cost of getting someone else’s children to and from school? Or looking after them at lunch time? Fail to see how this is anyone’s responsibility other than the parents.

Tina Luck

I am a single mother with two daughters. One is 10 and in grade 5. Similar story: fees keep rising but my income stays the same. My youngest is in daycare full time and even with full subsidy I pay over $400 a month so I can work.

My oldest requires lunch time supervision: it’s now $285. I believe I still owe $100 from last year.

I am not on any government assistance. I work full time and am about $900 over the low-income limit.

I applied for a waiver and was rejected as I am not on government assistance. If I quit my job and went and got on welfare, I would be eligible.

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My school fees from last year will be going to collection this month, I was advised and I don’t have the money to pay this year’s yet and likely will have an outstanding balance at the end of the year. I will never get ahead.

Nicole Marr

What about the huge group of people who are considered working poor or those 50 per cent that live paycheque to paycheque? You see all the waiver information and you know that you’ll never qualify for it, but you also know you sure can’t afford these fees.

We’re lucky to be in a new school this year, so no transportation fee. But at the same time, the field trip fee is expected to be paid in a lump sum at the beginning of the year and it doubled from what we paid last year ($52 to $100).

These fees hurt. And everyone needs their fees right now. So September is a ramen noodle month in many households.

Comments have been edited for length and style.

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