By Tammy Marashlian -Senior Education Writer -Santa Clarita Signal | http://bit.ly/rgEnXf
“AB 165 would ban school districts from charging students a fee to take part in school programs.”
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.