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ACLU lawsuit affects school field trips

Original post made on Nov 24, 2011

A pending lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union is having far-reaching effects on school field trips around California, including in Palo Alto.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, November 24, 2011, 11:04 PM

Comments (61)

Posted by JLS parent, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm

It's about time that the schools are made to realize that they can't enforce fees for attending school activities. Yet, JLS had the nerve to charge a mandatory fee for a "binder reminder" this year.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2011 at 3:49 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

So if I chose not to feed my child,then the school is on the hook for three squares? Neato!


Posted by School-Trips-Should-Not-Be-Vacations, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 8:03 am

> A Jordan Middle School science trip to Costa Rica will continue
> to be school-sponsored, as will a Gunn High School Jazz Ensemble
> trip to the Netherlands, with help from a music boosters group,
> Hawkins said.

For most schools around the Country, a school trip means a ride on a school bus to the state capital, and possibly some historic sites.
Trips involving travel beyond a couple hours, and involving all of the class, should not be "school sponsored" (meaning paid for with public money), nor should the school be involved in setting up, or orchestrating, such trips. Booster clubs, or parents, should be totally responsible for all costs, and private funds should not be co-mingled with public funds in any way. The public should not be subsidizing vacations for the privileged, who have figured out how to game the system.

Clubs obviously need have access to classrooms for meetings, and Internet access. But beyond that, all expenditures should originate from private funding. Once totally private, the ACLU can go pound sand.

Some entity needs to monitor the schools so that they are acting legally. Most schools do not hire auditors, so it's really difficult to know when they act illegally. While the County Board of Education is supposed to perform some oversight, it's difficult to believe that they are acting as "auditors" in any meaningful way.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

I think this is a great shame.

Travel is one of the most beneficial educational experiences and lasts a lifetime.

Speaking as a parent who was not educated around here, chaparoning for the 4th grade gold rush field trip taught me so much about California's history and took me places I would never have gone otherwise. My kids still talk about some of their field trips and what they learned years later when such things pop up in conversation.

I understand the reasoning, but what does sponsoring really mean? Can the teachers still mentor a group of parents to arrange a trip during spring break?

Can a group of boosters be organized each year to keep these trips going and instead of paying individually, the cost be divided up as a group "donation" to the boosters.

A family trip to an educational venue may not cover as much as a school trip run by organized tour operators? Does this mean that these specialist tour operators are going out of business?

Why do the connections kids still get the opportunity when the other kids don't? Isn't this discriminatory too?


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Nov 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

School-Trips-Should-Not-Be-Vacations

You need to read the article before commenting - it is pretty clear pubic money is NOT being used to send children on these extended trips.


Posted by School-Trips-Should-Not-Be-Vacations, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 10:22 am

> You need to read the article before commenting

And you need look up the definition of the word "should".


Posted by School district parent and employee, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2011 at 10:49 am

But the point is, you equated "school sponsored" with "paid for by public money" and the article clearly stated that it did not mean that, so your comment was meaningless after that point. Public money doesn't pay for these trips. That's what the lawsuit is about.


Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

While once upon a time, the ACLU may have represented good causes for good reasons, I think that time has passed.

The ACLU prevents more good things from happening than it does the bad.

Not on my list of Christmas charities ...


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

The Terman 8th grade Washington DC trip is outrageously expensive: $2,100 for 5days/4nights. Although it does happen over spring break, the trip supports the 8th grade civics curriculum. It should be an option for kids who want to attend, and money should not be an barrier to kids signing up. For us, who do not qualify for a school scholarship, and who are asked also to contribute extra for scholarships for kids who do, the cost was too high for us to consider sending our son. The result on this trip is that both low income and wealthy kids have the opportunity but for the middle class households, paying is much more difficult. I have thought that, if Terman or PAUSD can't pay the entire cost for each kid, there should be a fundraiser (ie car wash, bake sale, odd job team) so kids can raise money themselves toward offsetting the entire cost. Not only would this bring the cost down for everyone, but kids would have a sense of having contributed toward this expensive goal.
We would have felt so much better about paying towards this trip if the kids themselves were required to work for it, and also if it were at least in part subsidized by the district.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

Isn't this something the PTA and PIE should be looking at. I don't mean that money should come out of their general funds, but perhaps with their expertise in fundraising and organizing, they should be able to step up to make trips happen.

What is happening now is just as unfair. Parents may be willing to help but have no idea or experience on what to do. Even if one parent decides to try, how can a situation be prevented where two different groups are trying to organize something similar.

I think the PTA would be better doing something like this ahead of some of their other traditional activities. Not that these activities are not worth doing, just that some are more worthwhile than others and these definitely are worthwhile.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

re: DC trip

40 kids @ $2100 = $84,000

Sorry - but you can't possible hold enough bake sales or car washes to raise that kind of money. It has to come from the families themselves. Typically the cost covers the 1 or 2 teachers to go on the trip. And then the parent chaperones also have to pay for their trip as well (net the cost to cover the teachers).

Unfortunately it's things like this that have more and more people considering private school so they can avoid the over-regulation of their kids' lives.


Posted by JLS Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:49 am

Actually, the $8 on the JLS form ("Purchase/Donation Form") for the binder reminder was called a donation. The form did go on to state, however, that the organizer is required for all students. I guess one would have been provided had a family chosen not to make the donation?


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

Unfortunately, the DC trip is divisive, as it is not available to all. Some kids do feel bad that they can't go. It is my understanding that the trip can accomodate two busses, up to eighty kids, which is almost half of Terman 8th graders. One could argue that unless the trip can accomodate all 200 kids, it shouldn't be offered. This needs to be looked at from a philosophical as well as a financial perspective: is it fair for a public school to offer a trip to the whole class that not everyone can afford or attend?
Crescent Park dad, you missed the point about the bake sales. Obviously bake sales, etc are not going to raise much money. I was only saying that if kids want to go and are responsible for paying even a portion of the cost, they should, in middle school and high school, be organized (by a PTA, booster, or class club) to work toward making a contribution, however small. This, combined with school and parent support would be more egalitarian than the current dependence on parent-only funding.
But overall, I have been thinking that the DC trip has no place in our PAUSD public school for the very reasons discussed in the ACLU lawsuit.


Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

re: School-Trips-Should-Not-Be-Vacations

Your points were succinct, simple and sensible, and they are clearly meant to apply as generally as the ACLU lawsuit. Surprisingly, some people seem not to have understood them, focusing instead on who is paying for some trips from Palo Alto schools.

For those people who missed the basic points, I'll reiterate them:

(1) Long trips (say, overnight or farther than a 3 hour bus ride each way) should not be paid for with public funds. (That should make the ACLU lawsuit moot).

(2) Consequently, long trips (aka vacations) should be paid for entirely by private organizations and parents, and should not be organized by the schools.

(3) Schools are required to use auditing to enforce this separation of school trips and 'vacations'.


Posted by WhyNotLong?, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Not trying to be argumentative, but why are "long trips" not appropriate for public funds? You seem to equate that with it being a vacation. Why?
If it is a trip to Hawaii to swim and surf and sightsee, then I agree. But if it were (let's say) a trip to washington, dc on which the kids met with their congressman, sat through a senate session, perhaps the supreme court, visited the smithsonian, etc - all a part of and tied to their civics curriculum (if there were one), then I'm not so sure that (substantial) school funds would not be appropriate for such a trip.
So I think that criteria other than "long" should be a determining factor.


For those people who missed the basic points, I'll reiterate them:
(1) Long trips (say, overnight or farther than a 3 hour bus ride each way) should not be paid for with public funds. (That should make the ACLU lawsuit moot).
(2) Consequently, long trips (aka vacations) should be paid for entirely by private organizations and parents, and should not be organized by the schools.
(3) Schools are required to use auditing to enforce this separation of school trips and 'vacations'.


Posted by Member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Palo Alto High School students should not be allowed to leave the country on school projects (or without parents). During the last several years some high school students around the country have paid a terrible price when outside the United States. We have enough places in the US where high school students can learn.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

"Shouldn't PiE and PTA pay for this". Are you a member or supporter of either? Where do you think the money for PTAs and PiE come from and go to? From donors. I'm pretty sure most donors wouldn't want to send a bunch of kids off to D.C. The activities that PTAs and PiE support are for all kids, in general. On the other hand, if you want to join the PTA and work for this at your site, I think that would be great. Please don't suggest work for others, however. I also think there was a typo in the article. Only the Spanish Immersion kids are allowed on the trip to Costa Rica.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm

To "JLS Parent" who says "It's about time that the schools are made to realize that they can't enforce fees for attending school activities."

You're right. Sadly, our high quality Palo Alto schools that offer an exceptional education (far above what is considered by law to be a child's right to a "free and basic education") cannot enforce fees for school activities and staff that benefit ALL students. Hence, you are more than welcome to continue freeloading off all the other parents that support your child's education through their donations to PTA and PIE.


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm

"I'm pretty sure most donors wouldn't want to send a bunch of kids off to D.C. The activities that PTAs and PiE support are for all kids." ...
If school PTAs don't value a trip (ie to DC) enough to provide funding for the good of all students, then the trip should not be sponsored by the school, and funds should definitely not be used to pay for teachers or scholarships.
The companies offering the DC trip have a built-in clientele and can charge what they like.


Posted by Delores Eberhart, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I don't think there's anything wrong with having the kids raise money for trips. I remember selling chocolate bars (at 50 cents) a piece to raise money to go to Montreal with the French Club. It was fun and we all gained entrepreneurial experience! The club had to raise the money for everyone to go. We worked hard all year long. I do not feel that having parents or donors write a check for everything teaches the kids very much.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm

My understanding of the middle school DC trips, perhaps a few years dated, is that they are run by teachers in conjunction with private tour companies, and made available to the students. Some kids go, others don't (mine never did). It is part educational, part social - the kids enjoy a trip with their friends (and without their parents). The parents of those who went paid for it (a high-ish price, but not ridiculous). My kids never felt they missed any instruction by skipping it, though they missed all the who-held-hands-with-who action.

Maybe things have changed, but I don't see how this was "school sponsored" or a "school activity" - it took place during spring break. Are things being done different now?


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Not to split hairs, but the DC trip is marketed to kids through the school list and the teacher rep recruits kids on campus. Teachers attend (there are no parent chaperones) and scholarships are arranged through the teacher rep. I don't know where the funds come from, though paying parents are strongly encouraged to give more to subsidize others.
Enrichment trips with classmates are wonderful, but there needs to be a clear distinction between what is required as part of the curriculum and what is optional. The latter should be supported at all cost by the school and district. The other should be organized by parents or a club outside of school purview. As a public school district, as has been stated here already, it is very important that opportunities for school-sponsored trips and events are affordable for all.


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Excuse me...Edit sentence in paragraph two above to: the "former" should be supported at all cost by the school...


Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

As a teacher, my concern with this law is that in economically diverse communities like ours, the new approach to field trips will provide give some parents who can afford to pay a reason not to pay. This makes it more difficult for schools to focus on fundraising for the students who truly need financial help.

As a teacher, I organized voluntary field trips with my students every year, and I always make sure everyone can go no matter their finances. That was only possible when those who could afford to pay felt an responsibility to contribute if they wanted to go.

The intent of the lawsuit was good (schools should never bully parents into paying anything), but the overreaching results will reduce the kinds of enrichment offered to students. We want things to be state funded, but at the same time we are cutting state funding. As a result, children get less out of class opportunities, less lab experiments, less of anything that has expendables, that doesn't seem like progress to me.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

To parent who misread my comment, I did not say PTA and PIE should pay.

I did say PTA and PIE should look into this and that funds should not come out of their general fund. They are a group with expertise in fundraising and organization and that expertise and fundraising could help with fundraising and organizing a trip.

Please read before getting upset. You have no idea of my involvement in PTA or PIE so accusing me of anything is just jumping to conclusions.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Surprise? The schools are getting around this ruling by insisting that only students who have been members of a club for a year or more may travel with that club. They are looking for other ways to circumvent the legal ruling. The "They" are administrators and some teachers. Disgusting? Unethical? ACLU - please look into this matter. You can start with Gunn High. Talk with Navarro or Habib.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Nov 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

While at Gunn I went on one of these trips and it was very eye opening. There were 35 kids and we rode around on a Greyhound averaging about 200 miles per day - all over the U.S.. We saw most of the Country, we learned tolerance (from sharing a full size bed with bus mates many nights to accepting the scorn of some Southerners for treating Blacks better than they "deserved to be treated", and budgeting (our meal allowance was $5 per day). The cost of that 5 week trip was $600 which seemed like more at the time. Since then I have sent my kids on school sponsored trips to Washington DC, Paris and Costa Rica -they were all great!


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 7 hours ago

While once upon a time, the ACLU may have represented good causes for good reasons, I think that time has passed.

The ACLU prevents more good things from happening than it does the bad.

Not on my list of Christmas charities ...

___________

I agree completely, Concerned Retiree.


Posted by Giving Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm

In response to the first person to comment: "JLS parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood . . . It's about time that the schools are made to realize that they can't enforce fees for school activities. JLS had the nerve to charge a mandatory fee for a "binder reminder" this year."

It's simple. There are givers and takers. I'm guessing you're a taker.

Thankfully there are others in Palo Alto who are givers (to PTA & PiE). These are the residents and businesses keeping our schools top notch and maintaining your high property value. I applaud required fees (like JLS' mandatory fee for the binder reminder). I wish more fees would be required instead of "optional donations". Then every family would pay their fair share, and my family would not have to foot the bill for other family's school expenses. There are scholarships available for families who need assistance. Unfortunately, there are many families in Palo Alto who can afford to pay their fair share, yet choose not to and are comfortable letting others bear the burden of maintaining our above average school system. Just look at the number of families who donate to PiE (less than half of the families at the middle school level happy to let the other half make the donations). Again, there are givers and there are takers.


Posted by Nothing New, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 11:43 pm

This is neither new nor limited to field trips. See Gov. Schwarznegger's Dec. 2010 letter re: state guarantee to a free public school education - Web Link


Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2011 at 12:18 am

The governor's memo posted by the writer above was very helpful. I encourage those interested on this issue to take a look.

It captures the the most important points:
-all fees should truly be voluntary donations
-and donations should never be a requirement for participation

Most schools in our area have always aimed for those two goals. It is my hope this lawsuit does not mistakenly chill teachers' ideas for innovative instruction, and yet at the same time it reminds us that while donations are still permitted for those innovate projects, they should truly be communicated as donations, and not as a requirement for participation. Any teacher would be proud to stand by those principles.


Posted by Voice of Reason, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Bottom Line:
Life is not fair sometimes and kids who cannot afford to go can make it a goal of theirs for the future if they want to go that bad! Life is not fair and sooner kids can learn that the better off they will be and thus will hopefully learn that hard work and value of education evens everything out in the future.


Posted by I give my time, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm

@ Giving Parent

We are part of the families that can't afford those DC trips but also don't qualify for scholarships. We never made a big deal out of it. Our kids just did not go. End of story.

But what I wanted to say, it that, along the same lines, we can't afford to give to PiE. We already pay high property taxes to live here and finance our schools, so money donations are out of the question for us.

However, I have always generously given my time, ever since our children started kindergarten. Now, my last child is in high school and I still volunteer at the high school, a good 3 hours a week. Make a calculation. My donation of time is worth thousands of dollars. I find it sad that you recognize only money donations.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Dear I Give My Time - Thank you for all the years of service to the District - your time is a VERY valuable contribution! Not everyone can afford to volunteer or donate, to those that do, I am very appreciative. To those that can and don't - your students are benefiting from the gift of time and the gift of money from other parents and community members.

EVERY PAUSD student receives PiE money. EVERY PAUSD student benefits from the classroom volunteers, PTA volunteers, field-trip drivers, etc. One of the strengths of our district is its spirit of community and volunteerism.

To those who could give - time or money - and don't - at least express your appreciation to
those who do. YOUR child benefits.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Go whole hog and require equalization across all schools in the state. No one can go unless everyone can go. Even those who must travel with oxygen tanks or dialysis machines. And blind kids get to tour art galleries and deaf go to concerts.
This is just about the stupidest rule going.


Posted by Nothing New, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm

The ACLU lawsuit is not about field trips per se.

It's about bringing many public schools back into compliance with the state's constitution (that guarantees a free public education and prohibits public schools from charging mandatory fees/tuition for core educational programs, classes and materials, text books, lab fees, etc. Field trips did not drive this suit.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm

If they are going to be so picky there are myriads of other charges that we have incurred during our kids' education at PAUSD.

To name a few, supplies for science fair materials, homework which involved cooking and taking into school, t shirts for science projects, lab fees for cooking and science classes, costs for language work books, special graph science notebooks, supplies for physics project, cost for expensive graphing calculators, and these are only the ones that come to mind.

On top of that, the 4th grade gold rush trip and 6th grade science camp was practically mandatory for every child even though there was supposedly an option for joining other classes.

I am not complaining about these costs, but to say that there are no costs towards our children's education is wrong.

Are all these things going to end also?


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Walter is one of very few people here who has common sense.

He also has a gift for pulling the chain on Liberals, which always results in a response of blathering that sane readers find humorous.

Keep up the good work Walter!


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 26, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Outside observer-, glad you find walters comments so enjoyable. Says plenty about you also. Making fun of blind and deaf children is not about politics. BTW, for ignorant people like you and walter, blind and deaf children can enjoy museums and concerts-it just takes effort to awe that it happens.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

@Disgusted,

You miss the point entirely. Walter is not making fun of the deaf and blind. He is, however, making fun of you ;)


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Nice try,OO. But trying to spin walters vile comments is too late. He has been exposed for what he is. I am not sure why you think it is amusing to stand up for disabled children and why you think that I deserve to be made fun of. You reminds me of rush limbaugh-he also denigrated people and then tries to spin it as fun and games.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm

@Disgusted,

Ever thought of a career in politics? You're a natural!

Thanks for the laughs, and good night ;)


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Disgusted, I was making fun of the ACLU! Granted THEY are disabled intellectually, but I was pointing out the flaw in their reasoning.


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Keep on tryingg to spin your way out of your vile comments. We know you by now. Nothing is sacred-now disabled children are your target. Plus you insult those that stand up for peoples rights. Uncle adolph would be proud.


Posted by parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Yes, I was another "I give my time" since I couldn't afford to write a never ending series of checks. I did what I could.

We saved to spend a week's vacation with our children in Boston and Cape Cod one year and timed it to occur just before rents went sky high in July. Turned out it coincided with the annual Jordan trip to Washington and Boston the year our son was eligible. Needless to say we did many of the same things in Boston that his class ended up doing a week or so later, minus the drama of several of his classmates being sent home early because they felt the need to shoplift and got caught.

The children involved came from wealthy privileged backgrounds and were only doing it for the thrill. In the end stick to what you can afford and what works for your family and value system. Why is it that parents these days find it so hard to say no and push back against unreasonable demands?


Posted by Denese, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm

The school can pay for these trips but can't help parents pay for summer school unless you are on free lunch.

That is crazy!


Posted by Giving Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

Dear I Give My Time: You are amazing for donating your time and should be thanked profusely. It's people like you that are unsung volunteer heroes in our schools.

Just be careful making assumptions. You say it's sad I only care about donating money and not about time. As a matter of fact, I too have donated over 3,000 hours of my time to the pausd school system as a VOLUNTEER for over ten years. But because we were talking about the aclu judgement related to money in this thread I didn't bring up the volunteer time factor. You're right. The volunteer time factor is huge. In man hours, the volunteer time parents invest in pausd schools across the board equates to millions of dollars per academic year (the PTA has actually calculated this number).

My point is that the school system also requires "financial donations" to PTA and PiE to stay high quality. My volunteer time doesn't pay the bills for field trips, spectra art, classroom aides, middle school electives, etc. It's just a fact. Therefore, even though I volunteer thousands of hours, my family also donates what we can. What's hard to swallow is the high number of families who donate neither time nor money (even though they are able) and are comfortable reaping the benefits from other families who donate both.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

Yes, public school should be free but until the state stops cutting its funding of our schools and delaying promised payments, parents have to contribute. A California elementary school with no parent donations for "extras" wouldn't meet most people's expectations of an adequate education. Your beef should be with state and federal government, NCLB and perhaps Prop 13. Don't go after the schools who are just trying to make up for what the state takes away.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm

The Costa Rica trip is for all Spanish class students, not just immersion.

D.C. is an expensive trip and making it a private trip makes sense because the school should not have to pay for those who cannot afford the price tag. My son went to DC in 8th grade at Jordan and had a great time. He had to decide between the DC trip and the Costa Rica trip because we did not want to pay for both (and do not qualify for scholarship money).

I agree with Voice of Reason, that people need to accept that life is not fair. Socialist thinking will hold back our country and dumb it down. What's great about America is that anyone who is willing to work hard can be successful. What's not so great is that lazy people are enabled by society and the government.


Posted by back off ACLU, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Concerned Retiree has it right. The ACLU should find better causes thas this one.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I am a card carrying member of the ACLU. The lawsuit is about equity in a PUBLIC school environment. Yes, life is unfair. But it is the duty of a PUBLIC institution to safeguard the rights of ALL the public.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

If the ACLU insists on every student having equal rights, then they had better ask for equal family income. Even then, some families may decide not to participate; should we insist that all participate?


Posted by Nothing New, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Hmmmm, so those of you critical of the ACLU lawsuit are comfortable with schools charging fees for textbooks, core classes, materials, etc. - items that are central to public school education (not "extras") - regardless of what California's constitution stipulates or guarantees?

Should the constitution be changed then? To say what...?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm

According to the board packet, (Web Link) the trip is for Spanish Immersion students. My 8th grader is in regular Spanish and can't attend this trip. The trip includes 3 days of school and would not be allowable under the ACLU rules unless the school was willing to pay for all students. I'm curious how they are funding the kids whose parents can not afford it. Does anyone know?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2011 at 8:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Nothing, books are central, field trips are separate. I just pointed out that, to satisfy ACLU guidelines, everyone would be forced to participate in every school function, to hell with individual choice and interest.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2011 at 8:13 am

What it boils down to is that education in our public schools are not free, regardless of what the ACLU says.

We provide the supplies and some get the cool binders and others get the WalMart el cheapo ones. Homework costs money for supplies, whether it is cooking, science t shirts, physics projects or buying a particular graphing calculator or graph note book or poster for presentation of a book report.

At the beginning of the school year we write checks for school as well as PTA. Even the school library card costs us money.

I don't object to the cost of these things and I don't object to the cost of field trips. I do object to the ACLU telling us that we can't pay for an educational trip for our kids because some may not be able to afford it (not just an expensive DC trip).

If they want to make life fair, then they could start with making sure all students have free transport to school. No, that sounds like it would be too hard for them so they choose something that was never a problem in the first place.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 29, 2011 at 8:53 am

@Parent: Maybe it depends which school. Jordan allows all Spanish class students to attend the Costa Rica trip.

Agree with resident's posting. The disadvantaged kids who are from EPA get free transport and free lunches and don't pay for their field trips. That's not really fair.

Nor is it fair that my children are placed with dumb, non-resident, lazy, disengaged students for school projects who can't meet after school hours nor care to participate in the projects.


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

The bottom line is that you can't charge for public education. We live under the rule of law, and if you don't believe in a free public education and would like to change the California constitution, then pursue that recourse. If you are unclear about where the lines are drawn, don't conjecture, read the case law. PAUSD needs to stop funding programs off-balance-sheet by charging parents, and live within our means with the substantial funds that we do have.


Posted by Catherine, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

We are struggling with this in San Diego also.

I agree with @Christopher Chiang. This is all extra effort extracted from busy parents and teachers simply to keep the few educational enrichments we still have.

The ACLU lawsuit is more about enforcing "a particular" interpretation about what is constitutionally written than aiding / discouraging any school activities. Sometimes the ACLU defends some really unpopular positions, but in general, I'd rather have them as a watchdog than not at all.

That being the case, I'd say we should all contact our local representatives and have the law amended. The rule about granting free education, as stated, was written in 1874. Everything has changed since then - people, population, education, opportunities. It's time the law evolved as well.


Posted by Brian Coyle, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

As a parent and school board member of another California community, I found these comments interesting. But the most insightful, and easiest to ignore, was teacher Christopher Chiang's. In economically diverse communities, enforced fairness gives those who can afford to pay a reason not to. This makes it almost impossible to then fund the trips for those who can't.

Enforced equality sounds great, in the abstract. But besides lifting up those who have less, it allows those who have more to contribute less. The unintended consequence is that those who have less end up with even less, while those who have more shift what used to be public to private use. This is exactly what happened with Prop. 13, a response to Calif.'s Equalization mandate.


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