New Legislation Underscores Existing Student Fee Prohibitions and Moots Pending Litigation

October 2012

Additional requirements regarding student fees have been imposed on the California Department of Education and individual school districts under Assembly Bill 1575 which underscores the California Constitution’s existing prohibition on charging student fees. 

AB 1575 adds sections 49010 through 49013 to the Education Code and amends section 905 of the Government Code.  The new statutes define “pupil fee” to include any “fee, deposit, or other charge” imposed as a condition of a student’s participation in any activity offered by a school that “constitutes an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education, including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activities.”  Pursuant to section 49011, public schools, including charter schools, are thus prohibited from imposing fees for:

                     Supplies or equipment;

                     Participation in higher-level courses;

                     Participation in electives; and

                     Course credit or privileges. 

Further, schools may not use a fee waiver policy to evade the prohibition on school fees.  However, section 49011(c), continues to allow schools to solicit voluntary donations or voluntary participation in fundraising activities.

In addition, the bill makes the Uniform Complaint Procedure applicable to claims that a school has improperly imposed student fees.  School district-level resolutions of uniform complaints are reviewable by the California Department of Education, and any findings of non-compliance must be remedied by reasonable efforts to provide students with full reimbursement. 

Finally, school districts are required to adopt procedures by March 1, 2013 addressing the use of the Uniform Complaint Procedure to resolve student fees disputes.  School districts must include information regarding the prohibition on student fees and the applicability of the Uniform Complaint Procedure in the annual notice provided to students and their families.

In order to ensure that school districts comply with the prohibition on school fees, AB 1575 requires the State Department of Education to develop guidance for schools regarding school fees by the beginning of 2014-2015 fiscal year. 

AB 1575 is a modified version of Assembly Bill 165, which the Governor vetoed last fall.  The prior legislation required far more from school districts in an effort to enforce the prohibition on student fees. 

Both AB 1575 and AB 165 were introduced as part of a tentative settlement of a 2010 class action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) against the State of California for its failure to enforce the prohibition on student fees (Jane Doe and Jason Roe v. The State of California).  With Governor Brown’s signature on the new law, the issues in litigation have been resolved, and the ACLU has notified impacted parties, including school districts subpoenaed to testify in the case, of its intent to file a dismissal.

On November 5 at 10 a.m., F3 Partner Kimberly Smith and ACSA Legislative Advocate Laura Preston will provide the latest information on this topic and answer your questions by way of an E-ducation webinar.  Visit www.acsa.org/e-ducation to register today.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please call one of our six offices.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Kimberly Smith and Emily Sugrue.

Kimberly is a partner in the F3 Los Angeles office.

Emily is an associate in the F3 Oakland office.

This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this legal development may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.  Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at www.fagenfriedman.com.

As part of the E-ducation™ Professional Development Series hosted by ACSA and F3, we offer webinars on various topics.  You can find the information on the ACSA website at www.acsa.org/e-ducation.

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© 2012 Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP

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