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Statement: Community colleges can’t legally charge high school students tuition, Joe Radding, who oversees the state Department of Education’s college preparation program, said in an interview with voiceofsandiego.org on Jan. 9.

Determination: False

Analysis: Earlier this month, mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis received a False rating because her education plan incorrectly claimed that state laws prohibit high school students from attending community college classes.

It turns out that our Fact Check incorrectly described state laws, too. The mistake doesn’t change the inaccuracy of what Dumanis claimed or our rating, but certainly merits its own explanation.

When we determined Dumanis’ statement to be incorrect, her campaign pointed out that barriers still exist that make it difficult for high schoolers to take college classes.

School districts can lose state funding when students don’t spend a certain amount of time at district-run classes. Community colleges can lose tuition funding by enrolling high school students for free.

But why on earth would a community college enroll high school students for free? Joe Radding, who oversees the state Department of Education’s college preparation program, told me it was illegal for the colleges to charge them tuition.

After we published the Fact Check, a reader contacted me and questioned the accuracy of Radding’s description. She said a local community college had recently charged her teenage son tuition for two semesters.

So I asked Radding to revisit his statement. Either he was wrong or the woman had been illegally charged by a local community college.

Radding called me Monday, said he’d been mistaken and repeatedly apologized for any confusion. After having staff conduct legal research, he said community colleges do have discretion to charge high school students tuition.

We wrote this Fact Check to correct the record and explain what happened. Though Radding made a mistake, we still appreciate that he shared his time and helped us examine Dumanis’ inaccurate claim.

We certainly hope this Fact Check does not discourage anyone from helping us with Fact Checks in the future. Everyone makes occasional mistakes — Dumanis, Radding and us. The important step is simply correcting those mistakes publicly.

We’ve corrected our Fact Check of Dumanis and noted the changes at the bottom of the story. I also wanted to thank the reader who contacted me and spurred us to revisit this issue. Thank you for holding us accountable, too.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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