California's Free Education Guarantee Protected with AB 1575

September 29, 2012

Lara's Bill Identifies and Prevents School's 'Pay to Learn' Practice

SACRAMENTO – Fulfilling California’s free public education guarantee, Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law AB 1575, by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), ensuring  "free schools" for all California's children, regardless of economic status. AB 1575 will help identify, prevent, and address the charging of student fees in violation of a student’s constitutional right to a free public education, without imposing costly new requirements on school districts. Additionally, administrators will receive the appropriate guidance to successfully fundraise without infringing on a student’s constitutional right to a free public education.

“Equal educational opportunity in free public schools is the bedrock of our democratic society, promising that every child will have a chance to achieve the American dream.  AB 1575 ensures the ‘free schools’ guarantee is applied equally to all children in our state and remains a meaningful protection in our Constitution,” said Assembly Member 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 requiring 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 violate the California Constitution’s free public education guarantee and discriminate against lower-income students by creating a “pay to learn” system that threatens the integrity of our state’s public education system. AB 1575 will resolve the ACLU lawsuit.

AB 1575 is in accordance with Lara’s commitment to educational equity, providing the necessary guidance, notification, and accountability currently lacking in our educational system to identify and address fees in violation of our “free school” guarantee without costly litigation.