Original post made
on May 31, 2013
This story contains 647 words.
If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have
Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.
If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account,
to get your online account activated.
It’s a shame that the Weekly didn’t think to ask Superintendent Skelly just how much money it costs to run the Summer Sessions.
It’s a larger shame that the Superintendent does not seem to know just how much the Summer Sessions cost to produce. When someone makes as much money as this man does, he should demonstrate clear managerial skills, such as knowing the costs of major programs.
Also a shame that the weekly didn't fact check the districts claim to have been kind of caught off guard in April because there is another post by Curious on paonline that shows that CDE has been telling districts they can't charge for summer school for at least 15 years. It would really help to get the truth and not just district spin in the news stories. Just because Skelly says it doesn't mean it's true. One might think at this point that fact checking is especially important whe the story is about whether or not the person you are interviewing himself followed the law or not. He does have a reason to spin and shade. In 1997 the CDE guidance was the same ad it is today. Skelly knew that the charges were not allowed he was just like a lot of other districts a scofflaw. That's why the new law was passed. To just print his misleading statements without any reporting or fact checking of easily available facts should embarrass you.
Yes, it's beginning to look like this is the last year for summer school.
What will be next? PE?
And after PE, the world!
If a student is taking cartooning (just an example), I do not understand why the district can not charge for that summer lesson. A comparable one week private summer camp is not less than $400, while the district is only asking for $235 for a 4 weeks program which in my opinion is more enriching than a one-week private camp. And, district is also providing scholarship to students who can not pay the fee for the summer camp.
Does Summer school really count as school if the legal requirement for attendance are met during the regular school year? Change the name to Summer Learning Camp and see what the lawyers churn out.
Maybe the Civil Liberties will collect funds to pay the teachers that educate our future.
I am surprised to hear about the charges. Our child is attending again this summer, as all our children did before, and this year we were not charged because of this new law.
I hope they will continue to offer classes in the summer and ask parents, who can, to make donations to support the program. For some students this is important remedial education, for others it is a way to get certain classes out of the way so they can take advantage of all the High School has to offer during the year.
So a month ago we dropped our kid from summer school and they refunded us the fee minus a $71.00 processing fee for dropping! I'm assuming that is illegal and they owe us the fee back?
The thing for PAUSD to do is rent out their rooms in the summer to non-PAUSD groups who want to offer enrichment classes. That's what other districts do. The district does not support or advertise the classes. It just rents out classrooms which are normally empty in the summer. The District makes a little money. The outside groups who want to do SAT Prep or basket weaving or whatever can run their programs as they like and charge what the market will bear -- which is a lot in Palo Alto.
PAUSD can still offer the basic high-school credit math and English classes at no cost to students.
Ann, yes that fee is not legal. The district is required to send you a refund.
So--are all of these programs going to be free?
Why are the taxpayers being expected to pay for providing these clearly recreational programs?
TEENAGE GOURMET —CLASSIC AND CONTEMPORARY COOKING
Section: 5615-1 8:15 – 10:15
Section: 5615-2 10:30 – 12:30
Emphasis is on preparing items that teenagers can make at home for themselves, friends, and family. Students will learn first hand the
basics of cooking, plus the nutritional needs of teenagers; how to convert regular recipes to lower-fat ones, and have taste-tests to
compare these lighter dishes. Recipes prepared in class range from breakfast items to dinner entrees, snack foods to desserts.
Students get to eat the food they prepare each day. Simple entertaining skills will be practiced, and parents will be invited guests! A
lottery will be held in the event of over enrollment in this class.
A donation of $45 will be collected during the first class.
INTRODUCTION TO FISHING AND FLY FISHING
Section: 2722-1 8:15 – 10:15
Section: 2722-2 10:30 – 12:30
This course is designed to introduce you to fresh and saltwater fishing and how to do it. Both experienced and novice fishers are
welcome. Hands-on lessons with different rods and reels, lures and bait, and locating fish will be included. Learn basic lure making,
fly-tying techniques and how to cast. Take a field trip to a local fishing spot so you can apply your new knowledge and skills.
Rod/reel/line outfits will be provided. A donation of $25 will be collected during the first class.
Section: 2730-1 8:15 – 10:15
Section: 2730-2 10:30 – 12:30
In this course, students will be introduced to basketball plays, positions, and basic strategies for successful game play. Students will
learn proper passing, dribbling, and shooting techniques in a fun and safe environment.
FUN FIELD GAMES
Section: 2635-1 8:15 – 10:15
Section: 2635-2 10:30 – 12:30
Fun field games will include gridball, over the line, rocks, capture the flag, quadball, ultimate frisbee, disc golf, softball, and more!
These games will be non-competitive, with an emphasis on having fun.
PLAY SOCCER,GAIN STAMINA
Section: 2739-1 8:15 – 10:15
Take a break from your summer reading list and join the field games! Students will run, jump, kick, lunge, juggle, sprint, pass, balance,
dive, score, hop, recover, gallop, slide, celebrate, and so much more. Soccer skills and general fitness are the goals. Drills and daily
scrimmages are the methods. Bring your own soccer ball and cleats if you have them.
Section: 2733-1 8:15 – 10:15
Section: 2733-2 10:30 – 12:30
Basic strokes, fundamentals of tennis, and
Od course not. That's why it's all going to be eliminated.
This post (Web Link) gives some additional details and background. Among the points that struck me:
- The City told the school district a year ago it was concerned about the legality of charging for summer school. That's why the district stopped charging for credit high school classes.
- The law didn't just change. In fact, here's a 2011 document from the PAUSD website summarizing the legal requirements then: "Students cannot be assessed a fee to enroll in a class, whether it be during the normal school year or during the summer." (Web Link). The guidance from the Department of Education has prohibited summer school tuition since at least 1997.
- Missing from this story is also the fact that a Curious posting on Monday (Web Link) raised this issue. 3 days later the district had a new policy. Probably getting a call from the Weekly after the reporter read the Curious posting had something to do with this swift change of heart.
Why does all of that matter? Because this story gives the impression that the district was reacting to an April 24 legal memo. In fact, they already knew everything in that memo, and they were reacting to the fact that the problem with summer school tuition had become public.
For the last few years. My struggling 10 year old teachers, have recommended we send her to summer school. We always declined, even after being offered partial scholarships. So this whole time she could have legally gone and gotten the help she needed?
Nice job PAUSD thanks for helping to keep a poor strugling familys daughter down the education scale. While the wealthier families get your help to push their child forward...
Question to parent who know or the Weekly: Can parents ask for refunds paid before 2013. I paid them so much money so my kids could attend summer school, can I get refund too. or it is just for 2013. I believe the answer is the last one, but then I read that it was illegal to charge since many years ago. Pleas give advise. Thanks.
I am wondering how many other ways is our district doing illegal things? There were many times when I could not afford to pay tuition, and I did not send my kids to summer school.
I do not understand your issue - the School offered very low cost help for your daughter and you turned it down. Please explain who is at fault. You are the parent.
If the school district can not provide the classes any longer perhaps the classes could be provided through the PA Park and Req -that would eliminate the questionable charging problem.
I don't know whether you can get a refund for past years or not. Here is a link to the material on fees on the PAUSD site: Web Link.
It says that you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to complain that you have been charged an illegal fee. I would send an email to that address saying that you were charged summer school tuition, and for each year say how much you were charged. Say that you want this to be treated as a complaint under the Uniform Complaint Procedure. Let the district figure out what to do about it. If they turn you down, you can appeal to the California Department of Education. The district should tell you how to appeal if they turn you down. If you are entitled to a refund for past years, you should be able to get it through this process.
If the OCR OCL etc... along with that do gooder group called We Can Do Better keep at it Palo Alto will just become some watered down district that is so politically correct it will end up destroying itself in terms of becoming mediocre. I'm a teacher in the district and people just do not want to admit that education is an inside job as it pertains to each individual student, you get out of your education what you and your parents put into it.
Go anywhere and say you teach in Palo Alto and people look up to you and wish they had your job. Yes, Palo Alto has its problems like any other school district but I have taught in Redwood City and it is night and day because of the clients, student demographics.
Keep making excuses for minority students but I have seen lots of minorities get a great education in Palo Alto and I will go on record as saying that the ones who do not just do not put in the time or effort along with their parents. They think they will get a good education by just going to Paly Schools and that they are owed an education. It takes work and desire to get an education along with support from home.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Wayne Martin: Perhaps the 150K that the district will save by not hiring the PR Spin person to deflect attention from Skelly's missteps will pay for these classes. Perhaps they should add Wedgie Weaving 1A to the list. I am amazed at the classes. Actually, they sound like classes that would be offered through the rec. dept. They should offer shop classes (if indeed they don't) to make up for the deficit that not having access to shops provide. My child so needed and benefited from shop class to balance off the stress of the BC Calc etc. He loved shop and learned so many skills that are applicable to his life today.
I'm also a teacher in the district and you can rest assured that irregardless of the minority student's situation pertaining to the parents (Some of which I agree with you- DOES not pertain to all) that the tone of which you speak about the minority students in the district they by street smart intuition (Which 90% of our students don't have) whiff it off you. That's teaching 101. Never met a community that loves loves to toot their own horn.
Teacher - I hope you are not actually a PAUSD teacher since "irregardless" is not a word.
You just made my point to a degree that is humorous. Thanks for the chuckle.
Regrettably the district's action still does not comply with the law. The law states that a district may not charge for summer school tuition. That has been the law since 1984, and well known and understood and communicated by CDE to districts at least since 1997, in a prior Fiscal Management Advisory. The 1997 guidance and the 2013 guidance are identical with respect to summer school.
It is indefensible that the district has continued to charge for summer school for all these years. First, it is indefensible because it was flatly against the law. Second, because it took money from many middle and lower income families that they could ill afford and needed for other things, including from families too proud to request or accept charity in the form of fee waivers. Third because there are children, including those from low income families who needed remediation, who certainly did not receive it because their families declined to even consider signing them up due to the prohibitive cost.
Finally, due to the efforts of anonymous bloggers, the district has been forced to reconsider this policy. Yet it still, after all this, is not following the law.
The law provides a clear remedy for violations and that remedy is written into the statute. That law provides that where fees have been charged illegally, the district "shall provide a remedy to all affected pupils, parents, and guardians" and that the district shall make reasonable efforts to "ensure full reimbursement to all affected pupils, parents, and guardians."
Despite the fact that PAUSD knows precisely who paid them and the amount paid, it has created a unduly cumbersome process that shifts the burden to every single parent to positively request a refund. It is unclear why the funds are not simply refunded to the credit card used to make the payment, since PAUSD has all of the relevant records needed to make the refund.
It seems apparent that the extra step is being included in order to create the opportunity for PAUSD to request that parents forego their refunds and make donations to the summer school program. That PAUSD would like to request the donation is fine, and they can do that in the email notifying parents that a refund is forthcoming. But the process is backwards -- the default option under what PAUSD is doing is to keep the money as a donation unless the parent elects a refund when it should be the reverse -- PAUSD should refund the money unless a parent indicates that they want to donate.
This default escheatment to the district violates the provision of the law that requires PAUSD to make reasonable efforts to "ensure full reimbursement to all." Because PAUSD can easily just make full reimbursement anything less fails to meet this criteria. Certainly creating a process that defaults to PAUSD keeping the money unless a parent elects otherwise does not satisfy the legal requirements here.
This is the equivalent of the IRS overcharging a taxpayer, and then informing the taxpayer that rather than refund the overpayment, the taxpayer is required to specially request it, otherwise the IRS will treat it as a donation to the federal government.
The link below is to a claim form that can be filed anonymously with a principal or with Charles Young to complain about violations if AB1575, including summer school, calculators, band instrument rentals, and so forth: Web Link
This is an issue that might have been profitably pursued by the Weeklym in this story.
I don't know which comment is worse, the one from a teacher who implies that "minority students" "who do not get a great education do not put in the time or effort along with their parents," or the one from the other teacher who implies that minority students may have "street smart intuition" which "90% of our students don't have." Use this basic test of replacing "minority" with something specific like black, jew, or gay. If it sounds racist, it probably is. Good to see that the equity work that Kevin Skelly wrote about in his "Weekly Communication" today is paying off.
And then, when I point out that some people here seem hell bent on destroying the school district, my post gets deleted.... It probably strikes too close to the truth for comfort. <sighs>
I have been teaching in Palo Alto for years and I totally agree with Whoever: A lot of people with to much time on their hands are hell bent on destroying the district one law suit at a time.
Okay, lets take race out of it! Whether white, latino, yellow, black, etc... getting a good education is a inside job. Yes, some have to work harder because of circumstances but everyone has the opportunity to get a very good education in Palo Alto, one of the best actually. I know the district is going to great lengths to educate all children, especially the minority students. Avid, after school homework clubs, etc...
People just love to make excuses but when you are on the front lines in Palo Alto and have been teaching for years you know the truth but to say the truth is politically incorrect or construed as being racist. Is what it is!!!
I too am a "Minority" teacher. Why the label? Get real. I have the same exact expectations from my minority students as I do from my non-minority students. Simple empirical observation teaching in Palo Alto tells you that the MAJORITY of your minority students come from East Palo ALto. That means that the MAJORITY (Code: Not all) of them ride the city busses, witness unsavory crime dealings on their neighborhood corners, and because of their parent's half willingness or unwillingness to speak English making their kids the de facto communication between them and the administration that equals street smarts to me. Street smarts are not always negative, and in fact sometimes results in life skills that are needed. That and saying MOST (Code: Not all) of Palo Alto kids lack these street smart skills is not a judgement call, it just IS. Having street smart means you can smell dog doo when you smell it probably coming from someone who lives on a different planet that you do. How is that racist?
The words of both teachers reveal much about them, probably more than they intended. One commonality is that they both seem to be experts of what the truth is and what "is" is.
If my understanding of demographics are sound, I don't think they mean all minorities. One clearly indicates only those from East Palo Alto, but what about "minorities" from Stanford or ones whose families have been in Palo Alto for a few generations?
Those "Minorities" from Stanford and those "Minorities" whose families have been in Palo Alto for a few generations probably can afford the summer school fee and did not have to wrangle the school district for a refund based on the fact that asking them for a fee is probably illegal for a course that is for remediation. They are probably not riding city busses or witnessing too much unsavory crime on the Stanford campus. I'm assuming their reality is different.
> return the tuition for all students back to 1984.
I was wondering about this too. While some might think that the District has records going back that far—the District doesn’t seem to have published a records retention schedule, do it’s not clear that that’s true.
But assuming that we could identify the parents of those children attending summer sessions back to 1984, what’s the financial implication for District finances?
I’ve done the simplest of calculations—and come up with the following data points:
Assuming the average cost for summer sessions per child is: $250 to $350.
Then, the District collected between $25,000 and $35,000 for each 100 children attending.
Assuming 17 years for the period of over-collection, the District then would have over-charged between $425,000 and $595,000 per 100 students.
If the total number of students attending summer sessions were to be in the thousands, then it’s clear that the District would be liable for millions of dollars in over-charge claims--that should be returned to the parents.
Without knowing the total number of students that attended summer sessions since this law was enacted, we can’t push this calculation any farther, and expect much in the way of meaningful results. It’s possible that the District logs their summer session revenue in their “Budget Book”, so maybe someone might be able chase down some of the details.
Using this very simplistic approach, it’s not hard to see that there is a lot of money on the table that might need to be returned to the District’s parents—and that the management of the District has been responsible for allowing the over-charges to occur. Kind of makes you wonder what the School Boards have been doing all of this time?
Since this thread was made available only to those logged in, may I suggest to anyone who does not want to log in, and wants to continue to comment to refer to the following thread started by Curious just two days ago, titled: PAUSD to refund illegal summer school tuition charges. Link to Curious thread: Web Link Curious' informative inputs seem to make a fast difference. Thank you.
@wmartin46 - Thank you for pointing out the length of time. I addressed Ken Dauber suggested to look into last decade issues, mentioning the strategic plan, previous and the current one. link - Web Link
There actually is one more data point that could be added to the posting above.
Assuming 750 (average) students attended summer session every year, the District’s overcharges for a 17-year period would be in the range of $32M to $45M.
No matter what the real numbers turn out to be—it’s clear that we are talking about 10s of millions of dollars of over-charges.
Comparing this article to the other one on the same topic (Web Link), I was curious about the Superintendent's statement that his decision was based on "new legal advice", particularly that the advice just arrived on April 24.
I found just by using Google that the Department of Education sent the same information to all district superintendents on November 9, 2011 (Web Link). It says that "No statute specifically authorizes tuition for summer school. Therefore, tuition or any such fee or charge relating to summer school is prohibited under Title 5 California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 350, which precludes charging fees for educational activities not specifically authorized by law."
The district received this a long time before April 2013, nearly a year and a half before that. I don't understand the idea that this is a new legal requirement? Why didn't the reporter ask Dr. Skelly about this memo?
On December 2012 the CAC (Community Advisory Comity) organised an educational presentation about inclusion. This event took place in the District office. Link - Web Link
As it turns out - most of district officials knew, then, already, about the first OCR settlement.
I want to thank, again, the family who came forward with the info about what turned out to be the FIRST (out of?) OCR settlement. I am pretty sure that many tried prior to point to issues. Several comments in the thread about the inclusion presentation may give a hint as to the issues that were clear to many prior. Fear of retaliation was mentioned many times. Unfortunately - it seems that only the OCR "stamp of approval" enabled these issues, tip of the iceberg, become part of the public awareness.
@peggy actually according to Edmund Burke who posted on the other thread that guidance from CDE hasn't changed since at least 20 years ago. The reason the ACLU sued and the new law passed was because schools were just ignoring the 1984 Supreme Court decision. Districts like PAUSD are able to insulate themselves somewhat from the effects of prop 13 by using basic aid, bond issues, private education foundations, and shifting th burden to parents for expenses. The last of these is essentially a regressive tax that violates the state constitution. Middle and lower income parents shouldn't have to beg for a handout for a calculator or a gym suit or a field trip.
The district by law has to try to refund the illegal charges not wait to get an email from every parent.
Palydad, Yes, I am just puzzled about the timing. The story says that: "The Palo Alto school district will offer refunds to families who have paid fees for the district's 2013 summer school program after getting advice that such fees are prohibited by law."
The "advice" is mentioned here:
"The state Department of Education's April 24 "fiscal management advisory" warns against "a tuition fee or charge as a condition of enrollment in any class or course of instruction, including a fee for attendance in a summer or vacation school, a registration fee, a fee for a catalog of courses, a fee for an examination in a subject, a late registration or program change fee, a fee for the issuance of a diploma or certificate or a charge for lodging."
And then, "But with the new legal advice Skelly said, "We think we've got an issue here."
The exact same language that is quoted in the story from the April 24, 2013 advisory is in the November 9, 2011 advisory.
Did Dr. Skelly actually say that the change was based on the "new legal advice"? The district received that same advice 19 months ago, so that doesn't make sense to me. But it is a little hard to tell what he said from the story.
@Peggy Duncan, Palydad - an off topic question: Do you have any thought as to the reason that had the parallel thread about Summer school refunds available only to those logged in?
Also - it seems to me that the few other threads dealing with these issues, or seemingly related issues, became available only to those logged in during the same time frame. I wonder if you may have have any insight?
Some people seem to be missing the important point. The school district can not afford free summer school. So this will be the last year of summer school, at least in its current form. As a result, the students of PA may lose a learning opportunity. Only bureaucratic fools would consider summer programs to be part of the "public school program" causing the no charge issue. The is a very short sighted policy/law contributing to failings of the education program in the State.
Of course the district could operate summer school through the city Parks and Recreation program (or some other organization) - that would make the program "legal" but it would complicate the process and cause the fees to be higher to compensate for the added overhead.
Why shouldn't parents be responsible for funding summer school? The real problem is a poorly considered State Law and people should focus on changing that law. The goal should be to make education work, not to find ways to defeat it.
@village fool, I don't know why these threads have been restricted only to logged-in users. It does seem odd.
@alphonso, I do not believe that the school district cannot afford to offer summer school. The difference between today and last week is a few hundred thousand dollars, at a time when the school district seems to have plenty of resources. As several have pointed out, the $150,000 for the "communications officer" would go a long way towards covering this cost.
To your larger point, I am a long-time supporter of equal access to education for all, no matter their income, race, or other differences. We should not be infringing on the right of all students to a free public school education. That is part of the California state constitution.
I would think that attempting to subvert the law by contracting with some other organization would not be legal, though I am not a lawyer so I obviously can't be sure.
I am still trying to understand why the school district didn't act much earlier to address this issue, at least in November 2011 when it was informed by the state Department of Education? Why was there a charge for summer school last year?
> Of course the district could operate summer school through
> the city Parks and Recreation program (or some otherorganization) –> that would make the program "legal" but it would complicate
> the process and cause the fees to be higher to compensate for
> the added overhead.
Given that many of the subjects offered (at least at the middle school level) seem to be more recreational, than academic, there is every reason for the District to not offer these sorts of courses. If there is legitimate demand, the private sector, or the City’s Parks and Recreation Department is the appropriate place to offer such activities.
What’s really missing in this discussion is a lack of basic information about why the District offers summer sessions, how many students attend, how many out-of-district students attend, and what percentage of those attending are there for remedial purposes.
> The school district can not afford free summer school
The District manages to provide “free winters school”, so why, with a budget of somewhere in the $160M range can’t they figure out how to staff a few more classes during the summer?
The District also has the option of using On-line Courseware for some of these classes. This would reduce the cost of staff salaries significantly—as well as possibly not having to conduct the classes on a school site.
It's a shame that there isn't more information available to us to fully understand the financial side of this issue, at least.
> Districts like PAUSD are able to insulate themselves
> somewhat from the effects of prop 13 by using basic aid,
> bond issues, private education foundations, and shifting
> th burden to parents for expenses
This statement makes very little sense. Claims that Prop.13 have negatively effected school/student performance fail to acknowledge that the Serrano-Priest legal action of the late 1960s-early ‘70s changed the school funding mechanism from local funding to state funding—at least for General Fund operating funds. Funding for physical plant/capital expenditures were left with the local education authorities (for the most part)—which are almost always funded by bond issues. Basic Aid Districts are a way to side-step Serrano-Priest, by keeping property taxes local, rather than sending them to Sacramento for redistribution.
Which begs the question: “How much should we be spending to educate our children?”
Nationally, and here in California, the per-child expenditure has risen to about $10,500/student:
The US GDP for 2010 was supposedly about $13.24T. So, we collectively spent about 4% of our GDP on publicly funded K-12 education.
This slightly newer source suggest that the per-pupil spending has increased to an average of $11,665 per student:
Before 9/11, the US was spending more on education than on national defense. At some point, the defense spending will return to pre-9/11 levels, but the education spending will continue to grow.
The PAUSD has reported over $13,000/student to the State in recent years. This number will only grow in the future. Leaving us with the hard-to-answer-question: “Why isn’t this enough to get the job done?”