Legislation and an ACLU lawsuit tackle the increasing use of fees at public schools, a trend that is unfair to low-income students and increases disparities.
Not every proposed law is historic or sweeping. Some merely are pretty good ideas — perhaps even important for a low-income kid.
One such bill is among the hundreds awaiting action as the Legislature heads into its final month. The measure's goal is to stop schools from socking students with illegal fees.
Fees for sports and field trips and textbooks and art, for example.
They're being charged despite a guarantee in the California Constitution of a free K-12 education.
"Access to public education is a right enjoyed by all — not a commodity for sale," the California Supreme Court ruled in 1984. "Educational opportunities must be provided to all students without regard to their families' ability or willingness to pay fees….
"This fundamental feature of public education is not contingent upon the inevitably fluctuating financial health of local school districts. A solution to those financial difficulties must be found elsewhere."
Nevertheless, according to a pending lawsuit filed two years ago by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, "the state has done nothing as its public school districts blatantly violate the free school guarantee by requiring students to pay fees and purchase assigned materials for credit courses."