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Education Matters: New school policy makes no cents

July 14, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

For reasons not entirely clear to me, a California Supreme Court ruling from 1984 is now being implemented in our state schools.

In Hartzell v. Connell, the court held that “the imposition of fees for educational activities offered by public school districts violates the free school guarantee.” The word “free,” as used here, is now to be taken literally, right down to the penny. Any attempt to get a family to pony up a few bucks for lab fees or extra art supplies or drill team uniforms or even a three-ring notebook at the beginning of the year — all strictly forbidden out of concern that it may place an economic burden on some families, thereby violating the “equal education” guarantee in our state’s Constitution.

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And, it must be added, failing to comply could hold districts liable to lawsuits for not providing equal access to every student.

My heart goes out to families that cannot provide a three-ring binder for a son or daughter, but before I accept the reasoning in this court decision, I’d want to know the priorities of the families that find themselves in that destitute state.

After food, shelter and clothing, a child’s education should be in the same category of life’s necessities. I want to know that parents who chose to bring life into this world thought about education as part of their child’s basic sustenance.

I came across a directive sent out in one of our schools that requires every teacher to turn in his/her class syllabus for inspection to be sure that no charge or fee or money is to be paid out for anything whatsoever by any student for anything. Teachers may “request donations,” but those donations cannot be connected to any individual.

Physical education clothes, locks, athletic uniforms, art supplies, etc. must be provided by the individual school districts. Fees for field trips can be charged “as long as no student is prevented from making the field trip because of lack of sufficient funds.” Huh?

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