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CA ban on school fees

Original post made by A weary parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 3, 2013

Web Link

Note the third to last paragraph regarding PAUSD schools. Does it really make a difference if fees are "voluntary" when they are expected nonetheless? (PAUSD seems quite oblivious to this law, which covers extracurriculars. ) For example, letters for the 8th grade field trip to Great America, which of course entails a cost, were just sent. Although there is an "option" not to go, how is it in any way educational to be merely "supervised" during an entire day while the rest of one's classmates go to an amusement park? Fees might not be a consideration for most P.A. parents, but we don't have $20 million lying around to raze and rebuild a gym or pool or whatnot.

Comments (29)

Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm

If Palo Alto parents are living from paycheck to paycheck with no leftover money, then it's time to sell the house and move elsewhere. The education should not be so valuable that a child should have to forego activities or cannot afford supplies for school. Great America costs about $35. If a parent cannot afford $35 and is living in a million dollar house, then something is amiss. For those living in apartments, same thing. Educating children is more than just sending them to a good school. There are good schools on the Peninsula and on the East Bay. Life isn't fair; not everyone can afford to live in Palo Alto. I certainly would move elsewhere if I were living in Palo Alto like a poor person.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:25 am

@Mom of 3, a member of the Palo Alto High School community-
I must admit I am surprised.
Thinking especially about families who rent in Palo Alto to enable their kids education in Palo alto schools. As you indicated - many times these families are leaving in conditions by far less comfortable than rent $ could buy elsewhere. I'm pretty sure that if you take about education was well known - these families would have gone elsewhere. I'm pretty sure that most can not imagine that participating in a Great America trip, for example, is considered to be a vital component in Palo Alto education, to a point that a parent would suggest going elsewhere if one finds it difficult to pay. Not to mention the obvious - many have more than one kid, Great America is not the only activity etc. I'm thinking the most families who choose to rent in Palo Alto assumed that education is not only math/English etc. I'm thinking that these families assumed that top education is also about respecting others, regardless of financial situation - for example.

Posted by PlainJane
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 6:30 am

Mom of 3: "If Palo Alto parents are living from paycheck to paycheck with no leftover money, then it's time to sell the house and move elsewhere."

Ah-h-h-h. "Entitlements" takes on new meaning: Only children of affluent parents are entitled to a public education in Palo Alto. Let's make sure Palo Alto's kids grow up in a sanitized bubble world ignorant of and insensitive to the financial stresses and misfortunes that afflict most American families at some time during their lives, temporarily or long term.

Posted by It's been worse
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

When my oldest child entered the school system here (1992), parents were sent "begging letters" twice a year "suggesting" a "donation" of $500 per child per semester. This was to be given to the child's school. The wording in the letter stated that this was something everyone else in the district did, and that while $500 was the suggested donation, most people gave more!

Having just bought a house here, it was a bit difficult to come up with an extra $500, but for people with more than one child in Palo Alto schools at that time, this was a hardship! Eventually, after much criticism, the letters stopped coming twice a year, and came only at the beginning of the school year. By 1997, after some legal threats from parents, the letters stopped entirely.

This during the peak of PA schools!

Posted by Uh-oh
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:42 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Amy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:34 am

@it's been worse: They are back at it but requesting $2000 per child. I cannot afford to donate that much, but I can afford for my child to have extracurriculars, activities, and tutoring.

@PlainJane: How can you think our children are such idiots that they think everyone is wealthy? They see lack of wealth anytime they travel outside of Palo Alto or even inside town when they see blue collar workers. We don't even need Tinsley students around for them to understand that others are less fortunate. The entitled ones are the ones who expect a free ride from the government like those who support this ban. It's not too much to ask families to pay for their own school supplies and have a free education for the rest of the year. I would love to eat dinner with Obama but I can't afford it. Shouldn't it be my right as a citizen to eat with our leader?I don't think so. But socialists would argue otherwise. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

My JLS (now Paly) student was the first in the family not to have the opportunity of a school trip to DC. This was a great disappointment and was looked forward to for years beforehand. We definitely feel that that trip, although expensive, was of so much benefit to our older kids in so many different ways apart from the obvious educational benefit of visiting the Nations Capital.

Our older kids babysat and did chores to help pay for this trip.The trips were part of Christmas and birthday presents and they knew that because of their expensive trip to DC they would not be getting as much from Santa as perhaps they were used to or their siblings were getting. They learned to be responsible for their baggage and belongings in a shared room. They learned how to travel in a group rather than a family. They learned to budget spending money. They learned that they had as much responsibility to the group as the leaders. Apart from that, the guides on the trip were so knowledgeable and the trip was so full of so many more things than a family vacation could do that we felt it was well worth the money spent for our family.

Fortunately for our family, our finances were such that we could afford it. But we would have made sacrifices to pay for this. My own parents denied themselves many things to pay for school trips for me and I would happily have done the same.

I would rather pay for a school field trip to DC than give my kids large amounts of spending money for T & C daily lunches, or expensive ipods. It is all down to priorities.

I agree that some of the more financially challenged families may find it hard, but some of these families manage to have all the expensive toys for their kids while crying for "scholarships" for trips and other things. Denying the DC trip to everyone is only lowering the experience of a lifetime also.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

My kids (Jordan and now Paly and college) enjoyed the DC trip for all the same reasons. They also saved their money to spend, had a great time and learned a lot. Unfortunately, I think the state law is interpreted to mean that if the school sponsors a DC trip, they have to fundraise to pay for it and if a student can't afford it, they get to go for free. I doubt that was the intent of the law but many things have unintended consequences.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

My understanding is that school activities such as high school sports sakes for a participation fee of $150 per season. The school also mentions that there is an exception process for those families that can't afford the fee.

I remember that Jordan PTA would cover the costs for kids who could not afford to pay for grad night, etc.

I think the DC trip is different because it is not a PAUSD or school activity. It is true that teachers are involved, but typically these trips are run by a private company - the teachers who participate typically go at no cost to them in exchange for organizing the trip.

Posted by PAUSD for the 1%
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

Most of the posters on this thread have eliminated the need to parody the sad reality that PAUSD has become a district that views itself as being semi-private for the elite and operating outside of the laws. This issue, like the OCR investigation and other issues, is about our school district having to comply with the laws that provide equal protection and equal opportunity. In this case the state constitution and courts say that public education is to be free. That creates some issues for predominately affluent districts that have looked toward private funding for students to participate fully in various educational and extra curricular aspects.
Just a few years ago Senator Simitian was able to beat back an efforts to repeal or reduce basic aid funding, which is vital for maintaining the high caliber of PAUSD schools. The argument was that other districts should be lifted up rather than having being aid districts pulled down in funding. But that notion of "uplifting" was not so that we would undermine the rights and needs of those who are less affluent. The political support for our position risks being undermined every time we act like we are semi-private and above the law. Even if parents do not care about the moral and social issues involved, they should think about the political and economic consequences of these actions.
PAUSD used to have a deserved reputation for high quality, innovation and progressive values. Sadly, we appear to have abandoned much of what we were prowd of in exchange for pumping out tutored kids with high test scores.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

It has been against California law for more than twenty years for public schools to charge fees for participation in school activities. The PAUSD attorneys need to do some research if they do not already know this!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Grad nights, DC trips (and the like) are not school activities. They are organized by parent groups or private companies. These things cost money and no school district should put valuable academic funds towards such things. Including PAUSD. Typically it is the site PTA parents who do the organizing and fund raising. I remember for the Jordan grad nights we were asked to donate for own kids and donate additional funds to help pay for the kids/families that couldn't afford to pay.

After school sports are a pay to play system. The schools provide exceptions for those who cannot afford to make the donation. If they didn't ask for the donations, then there is no money for coaches, facilities, officials, transportation, etc. Sports are an optional activity and certainly should not be funded by academic monies.

I'm having a problem understanding why this is a problem for the OP. Optional and non-academically required activities are funded by the participants. What is the issue? Take a closer look at the form, I'm pretty sure there is a mention for getting an exception to the cost - again, the PTA is organizing the trip. "Checks payable to the Jordan PTA" is what is likely stated.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The education code that states that schools can charge a fee for social, educational, cultural, athletic, or school band activities but can't require a student to pay the fee in order to participate. This sounds like sports, prom, field trips, dances, etc would be included. High School Grad Night actually takes place when the kids are no longer students (its after graduation) so I assume that would be different.

Interestingly enough, the school is not supposed to charge for PE clothes with logos on them, they are considered uniforms. They can't require school supplies. They can require a deposit for lockers, musical intruments, etc. but have to return it.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

@PAUSD for the 1% - My first thought when reading first comment written by - Mom of 3, a member of the Palo Alto High School community - was: that can not be real. I was hoping that maybe commenter was brilliant "Cardinal" who posted short time ago, reflecting his/her take on local culture. After reading several times I got the the conclusion that this first posting was real, thus my comment following.
I think that the first comment above has nothing to do with education code, regulations etc. As several pointed out afterwords - it has everything to do with entitlement, local culture etc.

@Mom of 3, a member of the Palo Alto High School community - please accept my sincere apology, and my Kudos if I misunderstood, and you comment was a parody.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Yes, why do we have to follow the law as Crescent Park Dad writes. This is ridiculous government intrusion into local affairs. These various events held in and around the schools or on school property aren't school events, they're private. In fact, I think that this civil rights matter has gotten completely out of hand. I have a great idea -- following the model of declaring school events and sports to be private events, I think we should close the public schools and re-open them as "private academies." PAUSD could shut down, and then lease the buildings to our new "private academies" and then we wouldn't have to follow these civil rights laws for people who don't want to go along with our way of life.

Read more about it here -- a privatized prom exactly just like Crescent Park Dad suggests: Web Link

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Thank you Charles in Charge!
Following your suggested link- may I suggest also the following image, for our viewing pleasure? Web Link
I wonder now what you wrote in your initial post that was removed.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I merely pointed out that PAUSD was supposed to develop board policies that guarantee that the Uniform Complaint Procedure will be used for complaints of noncompliance with this law by March 1, 2013. The district official responsible for the Uniform Complaint Policy is Charles Young, the district compliance officer.

I noted in my previous comment that Charles Young failed utterly to carry out that responsibility as compliance officer or to implement the state-mandated Uniform Complaint Policy in the case of =disability harassment and bullying, opening up the district to a federal investigation and finding, and probably money damages.

I commented that it is not a surprise given those facts that Palo Alto is now being written up in the Mercury News for having failed to comply with this law too. Charles Young has again failed to do his job as compliance officer and the PAUSD brand is again being degraded in the media as a result of his inept performance.

I am not sure why that was deleted since it is all true or a matter of opinion based on facts. I agree with Edmund Burke that Charles Young should be terminated or placed on a performance plan and we should get a compliance officer who sees it as his or her job to keep PAUSD in compliance and not made a laughing stock in the Mercury News and the Weekly for being a scofflaw.

Here's a link to the new law that Charles Young failed to ensure was correctly implemented by 3/1/2013 as required by Cal. Ed. Code Section 49013(f).

Web Link

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

From this week's board packet, as if on cue:

Web Link

This is a request for approval for an international field trip to Costa Rica for the 5th grade SI class at Escondido. This trip absolutely violates the law cited above because it is highly expensive international travel that will be funded by parents. According to the principal, "no child will be excluded for financial reasons" but this will be done by scholarships for children who first have to say that they can't afford it and apply for aid. The school will "coordinate with community groups to supply funds for students in need."

As the ACLU said after it won the lawsuit that spawned the new law: "The court said free means free," said Brooks Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit. And "free" does not mean charging a fee and asking students to apply for a waiver or financial aid."

This field trip in which parents pay and students who cannot afford it are given scholarships is exactly what PAUSD is forbidden by law to do. Instead, the school district has to fund the trip in accordance with the new law. Parents can raise money but have to raise enough to pay for the entire trip, rather than have those who cannot afford it ask for aid. No child has to admit they don't have the funds and ask for assistance under the law.

PAUSD's Charles Young is the Compliance Officer who is charged with both ensuring that PAUSD follows the law and that there is a complaint procedure using the UCP for violations. Nothing has been done.

The trip looks fund.The Board should insist that this trip be run in accordance with the law.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2013 at 12:57 am

@Charles in Charge - Thank you for the info. News hype makes no difference.
All is quiet.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

Send an email to the school board urging them to instruct the staff that they can only do the trip, which looks like fun, if they do it in accordance with the law. Seems like a minimal requirement.

Posted by mind numbing
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2013 at 8:26 am

Yep. Ban all school trips and extra-curricula activities. Remove all requirements for access to IT/additional resources. Further dumb-down the district so that it complies fully with all laws. Introduce charter schools that require $5,000 "donations" to be a part of (eg: BLS) and further remove funds from public schools. Rinse and repeat until we public schools are completely free and students get the corresponding education they pay for.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

@mindnumbing, we receive money from the state and federal government. It's not "our" money and these aren't "our" schools. This is the state of California and the United States of America. Notice that the government doesn't tell Casti whether all the trips have to be accessible for poorer students. That's the difference between public and private school. These aren't Palo Alto's schools, because they are funded by California, and the United States government which can make rules requiring in exchange for the money that the district "complies fully with all laws."

Most people think that is a fair trade. If you don't think so the answer is not breaking the law it's giving back the money and privatizing.

Why don't you suggest that at the next board meeting? Otherwise, let's all just obey the law.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:18 am

@Charles in Charge - Given everything else going on, did you get a sense that a classified sending an email to the board would be a smart thing to do? Smart, for the classified work situation/environment.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:21 am

Sorry, I did not pick up on the fact of what "classified" meant. I was thinking like "classified information" not like "classified employee of the district." My apologies, I am sure that there would be retaliation. No I guess that won't work.

Posted by mind numbing
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:28 am

@"Glad you're not in Charge"
"we receive money from the state and federal government. It's not "our" money and these aren't "our" schools."

Palo Alto is a basic aid district. That means the district is funded by the residents. Basic aid districts get $120 per child from the state. Actually, I think this was even removed in the last financial year.
So, actually it is "our" money that the schools are using, not the state's.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

Charles in Charge - Thank you, I appreciate your understanding.
Possibly now, my comments, especially my response to Mom of 3, a member of the Palo Alto High School community @top of thread, may have a slight different perspective.

Posted by Charles in Charge
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:42 am

PAUSD receives approximately $5.75 million annually in federal revenue.

Please make a motion at the next board meeting to turn down all the dirty federal money so that we can do what we want with "our" money and "our" schools. Also, please stop deducting your property taxes and PIE contribution from your federal income taxes -- that's a federal subsidy for "our" schools as well. Perhaps you can also move for Palo Alto to secede from the state of California, since the requirement at issue here is not even funding based -- it is under the California Constitution. We don't want your dirty money and we don't want to be part of your silly Constitutional republic.

Posted by classified
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:54 am

@Charles in Charge - GREAT suggestions. May I add - forget the OCR (Office of Civil Rights - Federal) report. What business did the OCR have in "your" schools? Why were they (OCR) allowed on school's grounds?

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