ACLU settles suit alleging improper student fees at California public schools

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File photo: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the 2009 CeBIT technology trade fair on March 1, 2009 in Hanover, Germany.

There’s a settlement today in a lawsuit that challenged California public schools that charge students for workbooks, science lab materials and gym class uniforms, among other items.

California guarantees a free and public education to its young people. In a lawsuit it filed in September, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that those fees amounted to a “pay to learn” system that hurt the poor.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the defendant in the suit, agreed to inform school districts that it’s unconstitutional to require fees for in-school and extracurricular activities. He also committed the state to carry out regular compliance audits, and to allow parents to seek reimbursement for fees or deposits public school districts charge students and their families. Schwarzenegger agreed to seek these reforms through state legislation.

In a statement the governor thanked the ACLU for shedding light on the issue. “Every California student has the right to not only a quality public education, but a free public education. Our state has promised that to our students, and I am grateful to the ACLU for bringing the issue of these illegal fees to light."

State Controller John Chiang pledged to mobilize his office to carry out effective audits so that, in his words, students aren’t nickel-and-dimed for the tools they need to learn. “My office is committed to providing the auditing direction necessary to enforce this settlement and ensure that California public schools do not charge unlawful fees.”

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