The Herald-Sun reports that state schools in Victoria are charging parents up to $1000 in subject charges and - contrary to Education Department guidelines - threatening to stop students enrolling, playing sport and taking home artwork if the fees are not paid.
According to the report, angry parent and community groups as well as the State Opposition say subject charges make the concept of free education a joke.
Community and parent groups found some Catholic schools were cheaper than the state system, the report says.
Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services social policy worker Kathy Landvogt told the Herald that her organisation had found school charges were increasing.
As a result there was real confusion about what fees were voluntary at state schools.
Ms Landvogt said most people realised they needed to contribute to their child's education.
"But the problems are the increase in fees, the way the department and the schools communicate it and the way students who don't pay their fees are sometimes treated," she said.
Meanwhile, a national survey of parents has found that South Australian public and Catholic schools are the most expensive in the nation, Adelaide Now reports.
Parents in South Australia will spend an average $5600 on each child attending a government school this year – $660 more than parents in the cheapest state, Queensland, according to the Australian Scholarships Group.
And parents of Catholic school students will spend an average $10,100 – $1100 above the national average, the survey reveals.
Seventy per cent of SA's 240,000 students attend state or Catholic schools.
The figures were in a November survey of 1200 Australian parents about the money they spent on fees, uniforms, stationery, textbooks, excursions, musical tuition, computers and other education-related expenses.
"It is surprising SA is the most expensive for education costs and we don't know exactly why this is the case," Australian Scholarship Group general manager Warwick James told Adelaide Now.
"But, if one state has higher costs than the others, it may be that the State Government is not putting as much cash into education as the other state governments and parents are left to make up the balance."
Catholic Education SA said it was always seeking to contain costs as much as possible, "given our dependency on what we are funded by the Australian and State governments".
Anger over school fees (Herald-Sun, 29/1/07)
SA school bills shock (Adelaide Now, 29/1/07)
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