Measure Ending K-12 Pay to Learn Practice Heads to Senate Floor

August 25, 2011

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

Sacramento, Calif. – The illegal practice of charging K-12 students fees to participate in educational activities will soon end through the passage of Assembly Bill 165 by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). The measure cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee today with a 5 -- 4 vote.  AB 165 will put complaint and auditing procedures into place that will help identify, eliminate, and prevent the charging of illegal student fees in violation of a student’s constitutional right to a free public education.

“The very first thing we swore as elected officials was to uphold the California Constitution and with this vote, our children will know that we kept our word.  The all too familiar ‘pay to learn’ system in our public schools hurts our most vulnerable working families and ultimately the future of our state.  It is imperative that we ensure equality for all students,” said Assemblymember 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.

AB 165 will next be heard on the Senate Floor.