Tuesday, March 23, 2010

San Diego Reader | School Fees Are Illegal

San Diego Reader | School Fees Are Illegal
...At the cafĂ©, in between bites of her chorizo burrito, Smith leafed through the hundreds of pages of documents from the manila folder. She stopped at a copy of a 1984 lawsuit, Hartzell v. Connell. It is this lawsuit, she said, that guarantees free education at public schools. “The free school guarantee reflects the people’s judgment that a child’s public education is too important to be left to the budgetary circumstances and decisions of individual families,” read the California Supreme Court decision.
 “This court holds that all educational activities — curricular or ‘extracurricular’ ” — must be free. Having a fee-waiver policy for needy students is not acceptable, the opinion said. “The stigma that results from recording some students as needy was recognized early in the struggle for free schools.”


  1. Sally Smith in San Diego, CAApril 10, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Despite several District memos and meetings about illegal fees, San Diego Unified staff continue to charge illegal fees. The very sad faces of girls and shocked faces of parents who attended a cheer information meeting on Thursday April 8, 2010 at San Diego Unified's Patrick Henry High School made it clear that the $1439 cost of the cheer uniform and $1600 "donation schedule" due by June 10 was out of reach for those families. The parents were told "everything is a donation" and then were told about the mandatory fundraisers and expected donations. Not one parent was in a position to complain about a $1400 uniform because tryouts were coming up. I have brought this to the attention of Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba. The problem is he is just the interim guy and the district is in a state of instability. Parents who had no part in deciding the selection of an outrageously expensive Cheer Uniform, or agreeing for coaching that will cost each girl $1600 or whether their child should attend Cheer Camp for $400 are trapped into this donation/fundraising insanity imposed by people who have the power to grant the dream of being cheerleader to hopeful young girls. Thank you, Janis Sartucci, for posting this article. The reporter made me sound like a shrew but it's okay with me if this information gets out - even out to Maryland - which, by the way, I type wearing my Ocean Beach Maryland t-shirt. Beautiful state!

  2. I meant Ocean City! Ocean Beach is San Diego. This illegal fees issue leads to others - at Serra High School, the 2010-2011 cheer handout states students with serious health problems should not try out.This is wrong. A child with a diagnosis of epilepsy or asthma or diabetes or any other health issue should not be excluded. Instead, adults should create a program that is inclusive. The Cheer Program Uniform Options are "cheer members will be able to "borrow a loaner uniform" or "purchase a previously owned uniform" or "purchase a custom-fitted uniform ($435,$830 w/optional items)" The Cheer Advisor is very angry because I objected. I will continue my efforts to have San Diego Unified officials correct these inequities districtwide, not school by school.

  3. Parents from Chaffey Unified School District found posts about illegal fees and are now challenging the illegal fees for band, cheer, football, etc. Keeping posting information. It is making a difference. Parents are finding the information about illegal fees.

  4. Sally,

    Thanks for the update.

    Here in Montgomery County, Maryland public school students are charged fees to ATTEND CLASSES! The Board of Education actually APPROVED a policy to charge students to attend science classes.

    Even though the media has reported on this illegal policy, the Board of Education continues to allow the illegal fees to be charged year after year. Only parents that know the fees are illegal do not have to pay. If you don't know the law, you pay the bill thinking it is a legal fee.

    Very sad for parents that don't know their children have the right to a free public education under the Maryland Constitution.

  5. Check out the 2010 San Diego County Grand Jury Report on illegal fees in San Diego Unified School District. A reply is due to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court on Sept.3, 2010. Parents have put in CLAIMS to the district to get back their money and they are getting it. See www.sandi.net, parents, then policies, then fees- has new information albeit well-hidden but it's there. Staff is aware that it is illegal to collect fees and the good folks have stopped.

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    * Schooled: The Education Blog

    County Grand Jury: Schools Misuse Student Money, Charge Illegal Fees

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    Posted: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 11:13 am

    A county grand jury report released today criticizes San Diego Unified schools for misusing more than $100,000 meant for student government, instead spending it on school supplies, equipment and things that benefit faculty, such as a Christmas party for employees. The problems were originally uncovered in internal school district audits.

    Such money is meant for extra activities, not the basics that schools are supposed to supply. The report states that the problem is widespread: Roughly 75 percent of schools audited by school district investigators had misused the funds, including the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Hoover High, Longfellow Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Mission Bay High and Washington Elementary.

    The grand jury, a volunteer citizen group that investigates local governments, recommended San Diego Unified require more training for principals, vice principals, financial clerks and student government advisors to ensure they have checks and balances to track and control how money is spent. It also advised the school district to increase its auditing staff.

    The report also noted a number of other problems in the school system: Schools are still charging fees for supplies, equipment and uniforms, violating state law, which prohibits schools for charging students for activities.

    It argues for more oversight and auditing of charter schools, which are independently run but overseen by the school district. Oversight is currently limited to a single annual visit, it says. And the report says school district internal investigators aren't allowed to audit charter schools like other public schools.

    "I think what we are seeing in San Diego Unified is probably happening in every school district in the county," said foreperson Victoria Stubblefield.

    Despite the problems, another recent grand jury report gave San Diego Unified kudos for having the best system to detect and eliminate internal fraud among local government agencies. Those internal audits, in fact, provided many of the grand jury findings. School district spokeswoman Linda Zintz said San Diego Unified is still reviewing the report and will release a formal statement this afternoon.



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