Assemblymember Ricardo Lara Committed to Eliminate State's "Pay to Learn" Practice

February 03, 2012

AB 1575 introduced in wake of recent ACLU lawsuit victory

Sacramento - Today, Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) reintroduced legislation that would protect a student's constitutional guarantee to a free public education and eliminate the current "pay to learn" system. AB 1575 is introduced in the wake of the LA County Superior Court ruling in the case of Doe v. California, which upheld the ACLU's "free school" guarantee lawsuit. Last year, Lara authored AB 165 which sought to protect a student's right to a free public education and resolve the Doe lawsuit. Unfortunately, Governor Brown vetoed the bill claiming it went too far.

"The ACLU's victory in court confirms that it is ultimately the State's responsibility to uphold our Constitutional guarantee of providing an equal educational opportunity for all children, not just those who can afford it. AB 1575 provides a new opportunity for the Legislature and Governor to work together to address our current ‘pay to learn' system. No student should have to worry about being excluded or humiliated when they can't pay to participate in educational activities," 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 was introduced to address the problem and resolve the law suit, but the bill was vetoed.

AB 1575 as introduced today, 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 voluntary contributing to educational programs.