High school graduation a costly affair

May 21, 2009 6:01:48 PM PDT
Seemingly nothing in life is free these days, not even seeing your child's graduation from high school. 7 On Your Side has the story of the public high school selling tickets to graduation.

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With budgets being cut all around, the money has to be made up somewhere. One school thought why not make up a cash shortfall by turning graduation into a cash cow.

Seniors at San Lorenzo High School are about to graduate from a school in a district struggling to make ends meet.

"Seven million [dollars] we had to cut this year and possibly an additional $6 million," said San Lorenzo Unified School District's Melanie Spars.

Preparations are well underway for San Lorenzo's graduation at Paramount Theater in Oakland. So is the push to sell tickets. For the first time, they asked everyone who wants to be in the audience to pay $10 a seat.

"Some families aren't going to be able to afford to go. Some people are in a tight spot right now and they don't really have money to pay for it," said senior Jerry Delgadillo.

"It's not fair for the kids because they're graduating," said San Lorenzo High alumnus Xochitl Meraz. "They want to see their family graduating, so I think it's bad."

The decision to sell tickets was made by San Lorenzo High itself.

Arroyo High School is also in the San Lorenzo Unified School District. It is giving each family two free tickets to the graduation, then selling tickets to anyone else in the family who also wants to attend.

"It's extra funds for the school rather than closing the school or cutting their teachers, laying the teachers off," said San Lorenzo High School parent Saioiad Ahmad who supports charging for tickets.

We randomly checked a dozen other school districts in the Bay Area, and none said they sell tickets for graduation.

Berkeley High School, however, does charge for additional tickets after giving away the first two per family for free. And now that is apparently what San Lorenzo High will do as well. The principal called to notify us of the sudden change. She says this is what the school has done in past years and she wanted to continue with the tradition.

For students and family at San Lorenzo High, at least one thing in life will remain free.

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