Across America, school is back in full swing, and with it comes a new wave of young drivers. But where you and I see burgeoning adults, local school bureaucrats see piggy banks.
At many public high schools, students are charged fees to park their cars in the school parking lot. This fee ranges anywhere from $75, the current rate in Keller ISD, all the way to $200, the current rate in Wake County, North Carolina. School administrators often defend these fees by saying they are not a tax, and that the ability to drive to school is a privilege, not a right.
This is a flimsy argument at best.
Presumably, the parking lots are already paid for by state and local taxpayers. It is not as if the parking fees charged to parents and students help pay for the cost of the “privilege.” Why, then, would the school charge its students to park when there is no additional cost associated with it?
Obviously, they charge a fee because they’re taking advantage of a captive market. The students have no alternative option aside from the school parking lot. Administrators know this.
Many students have hard working parents who are not easily able to transport them to and from school, while others are involved in extracurricular activities that make their schedules irregular and arranging transportation difficult. Administrators understand this and know students will often pay whatever exorbitant parking fee the school district levies because they simply have no other parking option.
Parking fees charged over and above the cost of issuing a “parking permit” for school security purposes are extraordinarily regressive and place a strain on struggling families. Schools should not take advantage of parents by taking on an excessive fee simply because it’s more convenient for their children to drive themselves to and from school.
While these parking fees are called “fees” rather than a “tax,” they have the effect of a tax. They’re levied against students for no specific purpose other than to raise general revenue, and are paid out of the same taxpayer’s pocketbook.
In Texas, public schools are given broad authority to determine which fees to charge their students, the only caveat being that schools cannot charge fees relating to a course grade. An example of an unlawful fee would be if a school attempted to charge its students for textbooks. Charging students for parking, they argue, is one of the things left to administrative discretion.
Schools should stop taxing their students with parking fees. If they refuse to do so, the state legislature should further restrict what taxes and “fees” school districts are allowed to levy.
This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected]