Most Ontario high schools are charging students “user fees” for classes like French, art, business, music or science, says a report obtained by the Toronto Star that also found boards around the province rake in more than half a billion a year through fundraising.

As well, more parents are fundraising for renovations, additions or upgrades to their children’s schools — capital needs once considered something board budgets should cover — with 15 per cent of all school councils reporting such activity, says the People for Education report to be released this morning.

Based on boards’ own audited financial statements, People for Education found they raised $592 million through “a combination of fees, fundraising, vending machines, donations from businesses and other revenue sources.” Boards in Greater Toronto alone raised $238 million.

The increased reliance on fees and private fundraising raises the concern that it is leading to a system of “have” and “have not” schools.

Rules around fundraising and student fees are under review provincially, but as it stands now students cannot be asked to pay for something they need in any course, although that appears not to be the case in all boards.

Education ministry spokesperson Patricia MacNeil said fees cannot be charged for textbooks, course materials or registration, but boards can charge for voluntary activities such as extracurricular sports or field trips.