Back-to-School Time in La Paz, BCS

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The 2012-2013 school year has started and according to the Secretary of Public Education (SEP), more than 165,000 students returned to classes on August 20th in the state.
And back-to-school means it is budget time for local families.  Although parents sending their children to private schools are prepared to pay 1500 – 3500 pesos a month in tuition fees and another 3000 pesos plus on books, school supplies and uniforms at the start of the year, families sending their children to public schools, or “free” schools are finding that they are not so free after all.
At a downtown public school in La Paz, parents were asked to pay 300 pesos for computer classes and 300 pesos for the parent society committee upon registration.  They were then given a list for school supplies and mandatory uniform requirements that totaled another 1500 pesos.  All of this just to start the first day of school. 2000 pesos plus per child is a lot of money for an average family to absorb and even more difficult if there is more than one child going to school.
The State Government announced that they would be handing out more than 43 million pesos in school vouchers to help families with children attending public schools.  On the first day of school, 350 pesos vouchers were handed to each child to go towards their school uniform and another 200 peso voucher was given for school supplies.
Although most families were happy that the state government recognized their difficulties this time of year, some feel that “free” schools should be just that; free.
The move to hand out school vouchers was given in part to help out the economies of local families but also the economy in general, as August/September are generally very slow times for restaurants and retail.  Families during these months have just enjoyed family vacations and then are immediately hit with back-to-school shopping which leaves little else for spending.
However, Governor Covarrubias Villaseñor has said that education is still one of his governments main priorities and on top of the 43 million pesos being spent on school vouchers, the government also announced that a historical total of 400 million pesos will be spent on educational infrastructure this year.  His government has plans to build another 116 schoolrooms, 4 laboratories and 9 workshops along with bathrooms, basketball courts and shaded spaces that have been requested across the State.  Since they came into office last year, 120 new classrooms have already been added.
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