...At the café, 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.”