Saturday, October 08, 2011

AB165 or not AB165: SCHOOLS WAIT FOR WORD ON FUNDING - Bill awaiting Brown’s signature could significantly alter funding formula for student activities + smf’s 2c


By Tammy Marashlian -Senior Education Writer -Santa Clarita Signal  |

“AB 165 would ban school districts from charging students a fee to take part in school programs.”

2cents smf: I spent all Friday morning with a bunch of Southern California school administrators and attorneys at an  AB 165 symposium. Chicken Little was also represented. The above is  is true… but existing law, including provisions in the state constitution and many court decisions – including two definitive ones from the California Supreme Court - already ban school districts from charging students a fee to take part in school programs. AB 165 is an negotiated attempt to settle a lawsuit against the state that the state can’t possibly win.

AB 165 changes nothing… There are no new exceptions, no new rules, no new things added-to or subtracted-from existing law. No loopholes have been plugged – other than the fact that some districts have been non-complaint the past – charging for what they could get away with. AB 165 doesn’t mandate that schools refund previous ill-gotten fees. Schools can still charge for field trips. Kids still need to provide their own gym shoes. Uniforms can be insisted on – but the school can’t insist that their student-store uniforms are the only ones – but they never could (…they just did!)     It always was illegal to ask for a ‘voluntary’ donation when the donation was mandatory (Wink-wink/nod-nod/say no more). And there still are the same gray areas where folks can disagree.

…and AB 165 changes everything. Before if a student or a parent objected to an illegal  fee (a materials fee, art supplies, instrument rental, cheerleader uniform purchase, etc.) they had to sue the school district – and if they won or if the district settled they got their money back.
Under AB 165 the parent need only file a Uniform Complaint Form about the fee – exactly  like a Williams Settlement Complaint. The district must evaluate and respond – and the parent can appeal to the California Dept of Education. If the parent prevails everyone charged the fee gets their money back from the school district …even if a booster club charged it.

October 8, 2011 1:30 a.m. - A bill that would change how school districts across California fund athletics and extracurricular programs was awaiting a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday.

Assembly Bill 165 cleared the Senate and Assembly over the summer, and has been sitting on Brown’s desk since Sept. 14.

Brown, facing a Sunday night deadline, was busy signing bills Friday on a variety of issues, but did not sign AB 165. It will become law by the end of the weekend unless he vetoes it.

AB 165 would ban school districts from charging students a fee to take part in school programs.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, it would most affect the William S. Hart Union High School District because of its offering of athletics and extracurricular programs, such as choir and band.

The bill would adopt a lawsuit-settlement agreement into state law. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate fees required from students to participate in athletic and extracurricular — and in some cases, academic — activities.

Local elected officials voted against the bill because they say it will force schools to eliminate student programs.

During a recent Hart district school board meeting, Superintendent Robert Challinor said the issue is among the biggest to face public education in a long time.

“It really has an impact on us,” Challinor said during the September meeting between the Hart district and College of the Canyons trustees.

He cited Supreme Court cases that have meant to keep K-12 public education free for students.

The ACLU lawsuit challenged school districts, saying that asking students and families to pay for science lab fees and sports equipment is unconstitutional.

If AB 165 becomes law, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. School districts would establish a 10-week period so that parents can report unfair charges and request compensation, Challinor said.

School districts would also have to issue audits and reports to the state showing that they did not charge students fees.

“If school districts charged and there was no restitution, our state funding will be withheld,” Challinor said.

By banning school districts from issuing student fees, administrators would likely have to put a price tag on each program and ask for parent and business donations.

“We’ve got to bring that price tag down,” Challinor said.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dodge the bullet. AB 165 which seeks to codify California Constitutional provisions regarding “free public education” defines key educational programs as any “activity that constitutes an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education or that amounts to a necessary element of a school activity, including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activity.”

What the media and the general public fail to see is this bill is a wide open attempt to destroy school funding by allowing anything and everything to fit under this definition to provide a politically vague form of “free” education. Schools in the early 20th century did not offer the range of extra-curricular programs that they are expected to be offered today. Areas that will be in litigation soon will be sports, band, orchestra, summer school, field trips, lab fees, over night competitions just to name a few. As the phrase goes “they pull the temple down upon their own heads.”

With school funding hamstrung by, Prop 13 limitations, Serrano v Priest mandates that do not allow local property taxes to be spent on local schools. The public will face a critical choice under the looming cloud of AB 165. California citizens may either find public revenue to pay for the programs they have come to expect or return schools to the bare bones institutions they were nearly 100 years ago. Sacramento has shown once again they will give us the schools we deserve. Unless we speak up and loudly.

This ponzi scheme of ideology will see no winners. It will create a legacy of mediocre schools and offerings. It will harm communities and their pride in the quality educations their own schools provide. Fund schools properly, return control back to the communities from which our districts have grown.