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Student Fees Settlement Allows Families To Recoup Money

Refund Process Established For Future Cases

Audio

Aired 12/9/10

California public school students who have to pay for basic instructional materials or academic programs could get their money back within 30 days. It’s part of an historic agreement today between the American Civil Liberties Union and the state of California.

A collection of the textbooks used by the local middle schools.
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Above: A collection of the textbooks used by the local middle schools.

— The California Secretary of Education says public schools must stop requiring its students to pay for materials and programs at their campuses. A legal settlement now requires schools to refund the money if the practice continues.

Students are entitled to a free education in California.

But public school students up and down the state have been reaching into their pockets to pay for everything from textbooks to P.E. lockers. Some have paid to take part in science labs, art classes and sports teams.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state over the issue.

Now, state officials have agreed to a legislative fix that gives parents the power to file their complaints through a formal process. The process ensures families will get their money back within 30 days.

“We cannot violate the constitution and start charging students which disproportionately impacts our working families and low income families,” says Bonnie Reiss, California’s Secretary of Education. “We cannot charge them fees.”

School fees first came into the statewide spotlight after a county grand jury pinpointed problems in San Diego. The ACLU investigated and found schools throughout California were charging students.

David Blair-Loy, attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, says many parents were putting up with the fees. He says the claim process gives them a way to avoid litigation.

Blair-Loy said the San Diego Unified School District is leading the way in complying with the state law.

“We encourage all school districts to get out in front of the issue, just like San Diego Unified,” he said. “San Diego Unified got right out in front on this, very forthrightly, in the press and on their website.”

San Diego Unified had begun to encourage families to file a claim for reimbursement if they have been charged for materials or programs.

Under the new statewide settlement, each school district in the state is also subject to a strict auditing process.

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