by Howard Blume LA Times/LA Now | http://lat.ms/gEDkyW
December 9, 2010 | 10:03 am - In a settlement agreement announced Thursday, California students will have new protections against fees charged for a public education, which has not been as free as the law requires.
Under the proposed rules, if auditors conclude that a district has charged illegal fees, the school system would be required to reimburse parents or suffer a financial penalty. And parents could challenge the illegal fees immediately through a complaint process that must be resolved within 30 days.
The tentative resolution between public-interest attorneys and the state of California requires both court approval and follow-up legislation, attorneys said.
“This is a historic settlement that puts an end once and for all to the pay-to-learn system,” Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said in a statement.
Attorneys filed the case in September after collecting numerous anecdotal examples of school districts charging fees for books and other basic educational materials, as well as for involvement in activities.
“Charging students illegal fees discriminates against lower-income children and violates their constitutional right to a free education,” Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) said in the statement. “Families are unable to afford these fees and their children’s education suffers due to financial hardship.”