ACLU California Affiliates Announce Major
Settlement in School Fees Case

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union announced a
settlement today with the State of California that will establish a comprehensive
monitoring and enforcement system to ensure school districts do not unlawfully
charge fees to students for educational activities.

The settlement, which requires court approval, is contingent on enactment of
legislation that would empower students and parents to use the existing
Williams Uniform Complaint Process to identify, and receive reimbursement for,
illegal school fees and that would amend the annual independent audits of
school districts to determine if schools collected illegal fees.

“This is a historic settlement that puts an end once and for all to the pay to
learn system,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU/SC. “This
agreement means all students have an equal opportunity to achieve their
dreams irrespective of their families’ financial circumstances. The ACLU thanks
Governor Schwarzenegger, Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss and the
State Board of Education for facilitating a quick resolution of this case.”

Under the legislation, if auditors find a district charged illegal fees, the district
would be required to fully reimburse parents or suffer a financial penalty.
Furthermore, parents would be able to challenge illegal fees immediately
through the complaint process that provides for local resolution within 30
working days.

“Charging students illegal fees discriminates against lower-income children
and violates their constitutional right to a free education,” said Assembly
member Ricardo Lara. “Families are unable to afford these fees and their
children’s education suffers due to financial hardship.”

"The settlement reached today protects California students' right to a truly free
public education," said Morrison & Foerster partner Dan Marmalefsky. "We are
pleased that the State has acknowledged the unlawfulness of these fees and
agreed to take steps to prevent future violations of this fundamental
constitutional right."

The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, followed an
investigation by the ACLU/SC that uncovered a widespread practice among
school districts of forcing students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and
assigned novels in order to matriculate in academic courses. School districts
also charged lab fees for participation in science classes. The suit alleged that
this discriminating practice against lower-income children creates an unfair
system where only the wealthy are able to afford an education that is
constitutionally supposed to be free to all regardless of economic status.

The California affiliates involved in the case are the ACLU affiliates in
Southern California, Northern California, and San Diego and Imperial
Counties. The law firm Morrison & Foerster is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in
the suit.
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Illegal school fees
For some odd reason, the ACLU
did not mention San Diego Unified
School District in its lawsuit
regarding school fees.

San Diego ACLU attorney
Blair-Loy wrote this letter
to SDUSD attorney Mark Bresee.  

posts re school fees.