Friday, Oct. 3, 2009 | The state constitution does not permit charges for public education activities.
That is not debateable.
When charges are requested for student participation in a school-sponsored activity or class, the case law supports the constitution and any attorney that says otherwise is wiggling away from legal precedent.
The excuse that a child whose family can’t afford the charge will be taken care of by the school (through donors, or by school funds) is just that: an excuse! The constitution does not have a means test. It doesn’t say it public education is free for the poor, but not free for the others!
As a board member, I and others elected to office are sworn to support the constitution. The issue of whether or not parents choose to attend private schools because we make public schools free (or stop requiring payments for activities) is irrelevant and should not color our judgment.
School folks have tried to justify the process of charging by asking parents to go to vendors directly for uniform or other requirements. In addition, they have made requirements for periodic “donations” as installment payments of the charges they require for student participation. They also deposit donations into the ASB (Student Body) accounts and then use the accounts to actually pay district employees for work they do after hours for district sponsored activities.
There is an official pay schedule for extra-curricular activities and every principal manages it from their high school budget.
If they want other activities and can’t pay for them, charging parents seems like an easy way out. But it is unconstitutional — not a gray area.
If, as many courts have held, that these practices are unconstitutional, then those who want the worthwhile activities to continue should figure out the constitutional way to support them. Donations are always welcome for public school activities, but requiring them to be paid so your child can participate in a public school activity is wrong. The end does not justify the means.