Measure to Ban Unconstitutional K-12 Student Fees Sent to Governor

September 07, 2011

AB 165 Will Help Identify, Eliminate and Prevent Illegal Student Fees

Sacramento, Calif. – The Senate voted to end the illegal practice of charging K-12 students fees to participate in educational activities with a 51-22 vote. Assembly Bill 165 by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) will put complaint and auditing procedures into place that will help identify, eliminate, and prevent the charging of illegal fees in violation of a student’s constitutional right to a free public education.

"The California Constitution requires us to provide all children with a free K-12 public education. This applies to any school, public or charter. AB 165 will ensure that we keep this Constitutional promise to our children, and not just for those who can afford it. The 'pay to learn' system is detrimental to our children's education and hurts our most vulnerable working families. In times of great economic hardship we must continue to uphold the Constitution and keep schools free." said Lara.

An August 2010 investigation by the ACLU of Southern California uncovered a widespread practice among public school districts of charging students mandatory fees to participate in educational activities. For example, districts were forcing students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and assigned novels in order to matriculate in academic courses. In September 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of students alleging the fees violated the California Constitution’s free public education guarantee and discriminated against lower-income students by creating a 'pay to learn' system that threatened the integrity of our state’s public education system.

AB 165 addresses the issues raised in the lawsuit and will empower students and parents to challenge fees and receive reimbursements through the existing Williams Uniform Complaint Process that provides local resolution within 30 working days and makes costly litigation unnecessary. Additionally, parent and volunteer groups will not be prohibited from fund raising or voluntarily contributing to educational programs.