Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Science Camp and Other School Activities

There has been a lot of confusion reigning since AB 1575 was adopted this year, codifying into California's Education Code the rules governing how schools collect fees from students.  The rules were required after a lawsuit (Jane Doe and Jason Roe v. The State of California) found that California was illegally allowing students to be denied opportunities in school based on their ability to pay fees.  The lawsuit reaffirmed the principle that public schools must afford an equal opportunity for all students to participate in anything related to the educational mission.

A great summary of the issues raised by AB 1575 can be found in an EdSource report written in March of this year.  Many school districts reacted with abundant caution earlier this year when evaluating how to proceed with various programs that cost money and that couldn't easily be covered out the districts' general funds.  For example, how will schools pay for all the supplies needed by students in the classroom, musical instruments needed for band, uniforms for PE and sports, and enrichment trips by clubs and music programs?  There was some temptation to cancel programs rather than risk being on the hook for all the money that used to be collected from students.

One thing has always been clear.  It is still ok to ask those participating in school activities to make donations and raise money to help fund them.  But is it ever ok to simply charge people to participate?

A management advisory published by the California Department of Education helps clarify this questions, providing a list of 20 things for which a district CAN charge, including Science Camp and Field Trips.  It is ok to charge students for their participation in these activities, as long as no student is denied participation if they are unable to pay.  Therefore, it will still be necessary to raise money in order to cover the students who will not be able to cover their own costs.  (Anyone who would like to make a donation to their neighborhood school in order to cover  those students who can't afford to pay, please visit the school office and ask them how.)

One of the most memorable activities for 5th graders in the Berryessa School District is Science Camp.  Each of our schools sends 5th graders for a week at one of the local outdoor science camps.  Most schools attend Walden West in the beautiful redwood forest above Saratoga.  As our elementary schools prepare for this year's trip, they can continue to charge students as they have in the past. 

It is very important that our students continue to be afforded the educational opportunities of music, PE, science, and field trips as part of a well-rounded school program.  I will continue to work with the Board of Trustees and district administration to make sure that we find a way to continue to offer all of these programs.


Anonymous said...

It is important to have GATE program. GATE program can attract more parents. Some school districts like Cupertino don't need as they already have quite good student population. The school districts in middle class area need to teach students based on their levels. If some students are smart, give them more to learn. Fremont district, Moreland and many other school districts offer the program. If Berryessa school district has GATE program, many parents will not need to send their kids to private schools.

Anonymous said...

While schools may set a "fee" for science camp, they must allow all students to participate, irregardless or ability OR WILLINGNESS to pay. Moreover, donations which specify a specific amount, or which must be paid by a specified date, are illegal.