"The reason that actually this came about is we have two major fundraisers through the school year, and we just had a lot of parents saying, 'I don't want one more stupid box of chocolate. Can I just write a check and give some money to the school for whatever you guys need,'" Knestis, financial secretary at Devinny, said.
So, Knestis added a series of optional fees to registration materials asking for people to donate different increments to general funds that could fund school supplies or to specific funds supporting certain programs like art, physical education, or the Jeffco Outdoor Lab.
"For instance, a first grade donation of $10 is going to go into the first grade account," Knestis said. "That's their money to spend in the classroom."
Other schools around the Jefferson County School District are starting to do the same thing. Christie Mariano has a son at Moore Middle School. She was surprised to see the added fees on her registration schedule.
"Probably, the first question that comes to mind is what is this?" Mariano said. "What is it going to do for my son?"
Mariano also did not like that when parents go to register online; all of the optional fees are pre-checked as "yes."
"It was already pre-selected, so if you just went in and just hit 'Pay Now', you're paying $300 or more for fees that you don't even know what they are," Mariano said.
Knestis says the choices are pre-selected in order to get the attention of parents.
"Every box is checked so that a parent can look at it and be thoughtful and mindful about what it is they are paying for," Knestis said.
Mariano thinks it's just plain sneaky.
"I think it should be left blank," Mariano said. "It's kinda of more like a gotcha, like yeah okay we're just gonna check it all and you're not paying attention, then we're getting you for fees you just may not even require."
Across Jefferson County, the types of fees will vary from school to school. District officials wanted to give principals the freedom to ask parents what types of programs they want to donate to, if any at all.
"It's not going to work at every school. If you look at some of the smaller ones that are like Title I schools," Knestis said. "Not every school has the same parent population."
But, Mariano believes every school will have the same parent questions.
"It's definitely a voice of concern for parents," Mariano said.
Knestis says it's just a creative way to try to alleviate some of the district's money problems.
"If people ask, I can tell them," said Knestis. "I can show you exactly what we've spent it for."
The school district wants to be transparent with regards to the budget. It has a web page which can show the receipts of expenditures at all the schools. http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/financial_transparency/reports.php
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)