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California School Fiscal Services

Providing comprehensive business office and consulting services to K-12 traditional schools and charters



SCHOOLS: No pay for play uniforms and equipment

Posted on May 20, 2016 at 10:45 AM

Happy Friday!

Here is a great summary and Q and A regarding charging fees to parents.  This has been a source of confusion for a long time now with some districts entrenched in old habits that are no longer appropriate.  So, check it out and see if your polices need some updating.  

Enjoy your weekend


The Press Enterprise



Q. May a school charge students for elective classes or extracurricular activities?


A. No. It does not matter if the class or activity is compulsory or elective.


Q. May a school charge fees only to those students who can afford them and offer waivers for those who can't?


A. No. A waiver process based on financial need or inability to pay does not make an otherwise impermissible fee permissible.


Q. Are there any fees that a school may charge?


A. Some specific fees, charges and deposits are legally permissible. For example, schools may charge for optional attendance as a spectator at a school or district-sponsored activity, food served to students and the cost of replacing school books or supplies loaned to a student that the student fails to return or willfully damages.


Q. May a school request and receive donations from parents and guardians?


A. Yes. The key point is that the donations must be truly voluntary. A student's participation in a class, program or activity cannot be conditioned upon receipt of a "donation."


source: American Civil Liberties Union


There was a time when participating in extracurricular activities came with a price tag for students. Athletes had to purchase “spirit packs” and members of the band paid annual fees for uniforms and travel. And while the money was often considered a “donation,” it was understood if you want to play, you had to pay.

Not any more.

“If it’s going to be used in a contest, we have to pay for it,” said longtime San Jacinto High Athletic Director Jeff Snyder.

Things changed after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in 2010, alleging that school districts illegally charged fees for educational activities and materials in violation of the right to a free and equal public education in California. As part of the settlement, a bill enacted in 2012 ensures public school students are not charged as a condition of participating in educational activities.

Now schools are adjusting, but there are challenges. After all, uniforms and equipment are not getting any cheaper.

There are still traditional fundraisers, such as car washes and sales of magazines and others items, and parents and others may still donate, but they cannot be forced to. And money can longer go to an individual student’s account, only to an entire program.

That means more money must come from school budgets.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District spokesman Mark Dennis said there are no specific uniform allocations for their three high schools. The district provides money to each campus for activities, “but it is up to the site to purchase sports uniforms to meet the needs of the athletic program and student participants,” he wrote in an email.

And it’s not just sports that are affected. All activities must be free for public school students.

Jerry Burdick-Rutz, band director at Great Oak High in Temecula, said parents are still helping fill funding gaps in his program.

“Prior to and after the ACLU ruling I have found the parents and school district to be supportive of the students, and the music programs,” he said. “Especially when our tax dollars fall short of the program needs, the parents are there to help support items such as instruments, uniforms, coaching, music and transportation.”

The change has impacted some areas more than others. The massive Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, earlier this month agreed to spend $9 million over the next three years to provide student-athletes with team uniforms in all sports across its 83 high schools.

Daryl Strickland, a spokesman for LAUSD, said individual schools may have a voluntary donation program to purchase customized jerseys, pay for tournaments or purchase additional spirit gear, but none of these are required for participation on the team.

“All of our athletic programs have been instructed that there can be no mandatory fees for participation,” he said. “However, many schools did not have uniforms to issue to the student athletes.”

Snyder said teams will use sporting uniforms longer. When new togs are needed, they go to the varsity, with older uniforms being handed down to junior varsity and freshmen teams. Which brings up another issue.

“If you’re going to keep them longer, you have to have a little better quality,” which often costs more, Snyder said.

The ACLU lawsuit followed an investigation by the organization that found what it called widespread practices among school districts of charging students for materials for academic courses and after-school activities. The suit contended that charging for educational essentials discriminates against lower-income children, resulting in an unfair system.

Snyder said students can still pay for additional items. For example, if a cheerleader wants her name on the back of her uniform, she can pay for it and keep it. But there also are uniforms available that remain at the school to be used year after year.

Same as if a coach wants a team to have special warm-up gear or other items.

“If a student says ‘I can’t afford it,’ we have to buy it,” Snyder said.

Categories: Supporting Educational Support Systems

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