Thursday, August 21, 2008

School Fees - BOE Meets the Blair HS Gym Towel

Rosanne A. Hurwitz
Testimony before the Montgomery County Board of Education
August 21, 2008 on
MCPS Curriculum Fees

Good afternoon, Superintendent Weast and Members of the Board of Education. My name is Rosanne Hurwitz. I am here to testify concerning student fees for my child who is a student at Blair High School.

As we know, Maryland law provides for a free public education for all. The Maryland Court of appeals has stated that schools must be open to all without expense and this information has recently been reiterated by the Principal Counsel to the State Board of Education.[1]

Therefore, I come to you with three requests.

1. Please refund the towel fees charged my son for two semesters of Physical Education at Blair High School. Physical education is a state mandated graduation requirement. Students at Blair do not take showers in conjunction with their class; however, the school imposes a fee for which students incur an obligation of $4 per semester. Failure to pay this fee results in a “financial obligation” and students who do not pay this fee cannot participate in certain school activities, including graduation.[2] At the end of last year, the senior class had over $72,000 in outstanding obligations.[3]

2. Remove the upcoming charge of $3 per semester for AP English Language. According to the 2008-2009 approved student fee schedule for Blair, this is for a computer workshop. This is clearly a fee in conjunction with the instructional program for the course.

3. Finally, I request that you suspend the imposition of other similar charges throughout the county immediately, pending a review as to the legality of these charges. Although the Board President stated earlier this week that these charges were permitted under Board Policy JNA, I question whether the policy itself or its implementation is in fact consistent with our state law. The list of fees charged by the various MCPS high schools exceeds 40 pages, and the charges themselves are not consistent from school to school, thereby questioning why education costs more at some schools than others. While the Attorney General suggests parents appeal to the Board, it is unconscionable to expect the families of our county to go through this process to obtain what is clearly their right.

Thank you.

[1]August 18, 2008 letter from E. Kameen to L. Wilen (in MCPS records)
[2]2008-2009 MBHS Parent Handbook, page 16
[3] SCO, June 2, 2008

Link to WJLA story

Bring back free public education to Montgomery County

Testimony to MCPS Board of Education

August 21, 2008

On August 18, 2008, the Principal Counsel for the Maryland State Department of Education, Elizabeth Kameen, wrote to a MCPS parent concerning the issue of course fees. The letter was copied to MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.

In the letter Assistant Attorney General Kameen stated:

Over the years, this Office has issued Opinions and advice letters addressing the school fees issue. In 1987, the Attorney General opined: …whatever the outer limits of Maryland’s “free public schools” guarantee, we are safe in saying that anything directly related to a school’s curriculum must be available to all without charge.”…

In my hand I am holding 40 pages of curriculum related fees that are being charged to MCPS parents today as I speak. (That is over 1,800 separate curriculum related fees.)

The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County has made the Maryland State Constitution and legal opinions available to MCPS parents via a Guide and a website. In response to reading the state law one parent wrote to the Parents Coalition and said,

“I am concerned about the inclusion of the TI 83+ or better calculator on the Westland Middle School supply list for students in IM or higher math classes. I bought one for my son last year and I felt obligated to buy one for his friend this year. His family can't afford that kind of expense but he shouldn't go without necessary materials.”

Parents should know that if they wish to receive their Maryland Constitutional guarantee of a free public education they should not live in Montgomery County. Montgomery County does not welcome parents who seek to redeem their constitutional rights. Parents interested in seeking a free public education for their children should seek out another county or state.

I received a free public education when I attended Montgomery Knolls, Eastern and Blair. I look forward to the day when Montgomery County returns to a county that honors the Maryland state Constitution.

Janis Sartucci