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PAUSD student fee policies run contrary to state law

Original post made by Curious on May 27, 2013

The Palo Alto Board of Education is set to adopt Tuesday policies on gym uniforms and summer school classes that violate a state law guaranteeing students equal access to education (see Web Link). The 2012 law, AB 1275, provides that a pupil enrolled in a public school shall not be required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity. Specifically cited in the California Department of Education regulations implementing the law are gym uniforms and summer school classes (see Web Link).

PAUSD's cost for summer school classes top out at $475 for elementary school classes, $470 for middle school classes, and $800 for high school classes (see the catalogs linked from Web Link). The Department of Education's regulations, sent to all districts including PAUSD, states that "tuition or any such fee or charge relating to summer school is prohibited." Only classes that are intended primarily for adults may have fees attached.

The Board of Education discussed the issue of gym uniforms at its May 7 meeting, and concluded that students may be required to provide or purchase uniforms so long as non-logo clothing is allowed. However, the Department of Education and the state Attorney General have determined that under the law, "Gym suits for physical education classes" must be provided for free to students if they are required to wear them. There is no "logo-free exemption" in the regulations.

Earlier this year, the San Jose Mercury-News reported that "News of the fee ban hasn't reached all schools. This school year the Palo Alto High math department continued to insist Texas Instruments-89 graphing calculators were mandatory for an honors math analysis class; likewise nearby Jordan Middle School put out a list of nearly two dozen items required for sixth-graders." See Web Link.

Comments (58)

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm

This is a big issue. The practice of giving "scholarships", which is the big workaround in Palo Alto, is not allowed according to the law (which actually comes originally from the state Constitution). Students can't be required to ask for a discount or financial aid. There is a pretty short list of things that districts are allowed to charge for, and many things our students are required to provide (including calculators) are not on the list.
The summer school tuition issue is particularly bad. It's just blatantly illegal.


Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I have another take on it - I am offended at the milking of Palo Alto parents for these "fees" that ought to be part of the regular budget. Just another way to milk us for extra $. There is the obvious issue of equity, too.
I think having students do (meaningful) fundraising for special "extras" is one way for ALL to participate.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I think we might be verging on the ridiculous here.

What do you suggest? Students do pe in regular clothes and then have to sit in their sweaty clothes for the rest of the day?

And I suppose you don't want them having pe lockers with keys either? So what will that do for their valuables during pe?

I am not against no logo pe clothes supplied by families, but if this law is taken to its logical conclusion we will end up with no sweat producing pe and is that what we really want?

And as for summer school. The summer school classes that the teachers enroll the students in e.g. math or English remedial classes, they are free for any student who needs them. The only classes that cost money are the ones that the parents sign the students up for which are not remedial but enrichment or (dare I say it) summer babysitting. Even among the middle and high school summer classes, when the students are learning how to cook, or Harry Potter, or even getting ahead in math, science or living skills rather than doing them in regular school (so that they have a free period to do homework or an extra AP class) should these be free?

As it is, we have lost enrichment school trips to Washington DC for middle school. Be careful with this, or we will lose meaningful pe and other things we value? This may be just another case of being too PC.

Do we really want to go here?


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

@Resident, the first question is, what is the law? In this case, it's clear that if the schools want to require clothes for PE the district has to provide them. It's not optional to follow the law. Same thing for summer school classes. Haven't we already learned that?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

As resident was trying to point out, summer school for most students is optional, therefore, it should not be free. If a kid wants to get ahead in math, they can take a class. If someone wants to learn photography, they can take a class. It's another form of a camp that parents pay for. For those students who must take a class, the district pays. The district is actually doing a service for parents by providing classes during the summer. Parents do not have to enroll their students. IT IS OPTIONAL and, therefore, not free.
Please stop trying to create problems where none exist.


Posted by Cardinal, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I must disagree with "Observer". PAUSD is a Basic Aid district which puts us above state laws, or in the case of civil rights and the OCR, federal laws. Our institution is so exceptional that laws intended to provide basic equal educational opportunity for all students certainly should not apply to us. Why should students who cannot afford private school fees expect the same in school opportunities as other students who are educated by the best outside tutors money can buy?
As to why our superintendent and school board seem to be unaware of these unreasonable requirements, we know that the press and state Department of Education are out to get us because we are so exceptional, just as the federal Office of Civil Rights was out to get us. Consequently, it is understandable why our leadership would ignore state DOE directions and they can be forgiven for not reading the bad news about themselves in the papers. If I had to face such realities, I would have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Fortunately, like our leadership, I have the good fortune to live in an alternate reality where I am the victim rather than the perpetrator and I can count on the longtime protectors and defenders of my institution, regardless of our actions.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Hello Cardinal! Thank you for sharing your take! I am looking forward to more of your insights, especially if you are the same Cardinal who contributed way back, or affiliated with him (her????).


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Check your facts. All classes at the High school that are CREDIT based classes - Living skills, algebra 1, geometry 1, english, science etc. are FREE. The only classes that have a "fee" are enrichment based classes (ie the bridge class, SAT prep). These are classes that do not receive credit for graduation but are instead enrichment classes.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm

There is no exception for non-credit classes in the law. Charging for "enrichment" classes is specifically not allowed.


Posted by PalyDad, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I can't understand whether the problem with our district leadership and district counsel is incompetence or contempt for the law. Now we will be investigated by the California Department of Education as well as by OCR for both state and federal civil rights violations. Charles Young, your reign as "compliance officer" continues to cover the district in glory.


Posted by Just Stop It, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

It is ridiculous that a wealthy district such as PAUSD sends begging letters twice a year!


Posted by Fees, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Comments by Curious smack of "piling on." This is not a problem unique to Palo Alto. The law is not as clear cut as he/she would have you believe. In evidence, I would suggest you read this Mercury News online discussion with ACLU and other attorneys and a reporter who has covered the story (Web Link). Even among experts there is confusion over this law. The Mercury also ran a story that referenced school districts in Daly City, San Jose, and Pleasanton who were having trouble dealing with the ramifications of the law.

Curious has been a persistent critic of PAUSD, which is not a problem, except Curious seems to have sources of information beyond those of an ordinary citizen, much like "Edmund Burke." I'm suspicious that they are attorneys representing parents with issues with the district who are trying to overstate the breadth of difficulties in the district for their own gain, rather than trying to work out equitable solutions for the relatively few people affected. There are, after all, 11,000 students in the district and there have only been four documented investigations. While each of these may be wrongs, and if they are should be dealt with, they represent a tiny fraction of the total student body.


Posted by Curious, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Hello "Fees", thank you for your feedback, and for the pointer to the online discussion of the Mercury News article. I must disagree with you when you say that "The law is not as clear cut as he/she would have you believe." The law is clear cut on the question of summer school, school uniforms, and other fees (such as the calculators mentioned in the Mercury News article.
But I suggest that readers read the article and the online discussion and look at the regulations, which I linked to in my story. It is interesting to note that the other districts are cited in the Mercury News article are "having trouble dealing with the ramifications of the law" because they are trying to comply with it.
One interesting fact in the lawyers' discussion is that they agreed that if taking an AP test is required as a condition of taking a class (as in Palo Alto), the district must pay the AP test fee. Another interesting fact is that no fees can be charged for participation on sports teams or any other extracurricular activity, except for a short list of exceptions in the regulations.
As to the rest of your comments, I am a citizen who believes that a better informed community is a good thing and I want to contribute to that. I am certainly not an attorney, as I have said. I leave it to my readers to draw their own conclusions based on the facts I and others present. I welcome your comments and your participation in this effort!


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 10:02 pm

@Fees. You wrote: "Curious seems to have sources of information beyond those of an ordinary citizen, much like "Edmund Burke.""

In this case, no special knowledge, skills, or information is required. What is required, and what seems to be lacking, is a commitment to following the law.

Curious is correct about the information he/she is posting about AB 1275. This law was the result of a lawsuit by the ACLU which established that Californians have a state constitutional right to a free public education. Under the law, "free" means "free". The California Department of Education has interpreted this statute to mean that schools cannot charge for many things that Palo Alto charges for including summer school and gym uniforms. It also bars payment for many other things includings sports team participation, and AP test fees if they are required as a condition of taking the course (and I believe PAUSD does require students enrolled in AP classes to take the test).

In the case of gym uniform and summer school, the statute itself bars the payment. The statute bars the district from charging for uniforms or from requiring students to purchase uniforms (with or without logos). The school also cannot charge for summer school, or for any class, whether for credit or not, whether elective or required. That is right in the statute, which passed last year.

The statute itself didn't make new law. It was just declarative of existing law, and intended to ensure that district such as PAUSD, which were flouting the law, would now be forced to comply. The California Attorney General has issued a series of opinions, some going back more than 50 years, that say the same thing. This is not hard to understand or follow.

CDE sent a letter warning superintendents and districts, including Dr. Skelly on April 24, 2013 says "No statute specifically authorizes tuition for summer school. Therefore, tuition or any such fee or charge relating to summer school is prohibited under California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), Section 350, which precludes charging fees for educational activities not specifically authorized by law."

The letter also states that "A fee waiver policy shall not make a pupil fee permissible."

That is not ambiguous or complicated or confusing. It's crystal clear. What PAUSD is doing by charging summer school tuition violates the law.

Now, given that fact, who has the right to complain? Everyone, and it can be done anonymously. Cal. Ed. Code 49013(b). The mechanism for making a complaint is to file a Uniform Complaint Procedure complaint (which is just a written complaint directed to a school principal and/or to Charles Young at cyoung@pausd.org. It should state "This is a complaint under the Uniform Complaint Policy." Although that should not be necessary, as all written complaints are to be treated as UCP complaints by law, PAUSD has a history of improperly ignoring such complaints and not utilizing the UCP even when legally required to do so. (Note: If the UCP is not utilized correctly, the complainant may proceed directly to CDE, though few if any complainants are aware of this right.).

A complainant must provide "evidence or information leading to evidence to support an allegation of noncompliance. Id. In this case such evidence would merely be a copy of the board policy that the board is adopting tomorrow, along with the summer school catalogs.

Under state law, Charles Young would then be required to conduct an investigation and issue a written decision within 60 days that includes conclusions of law and findings of fact that can be appealed to CDE within 15 days. Any group or person who believes that the law is being violated may file such a complaint. Once it is filed and the district issues its finding, either the policy will be rescinded or, more likely, given PAUSD's history of noncompliance with law, reaffirmed, the group or person can appeal to CDE which will then launch an investigation into why PAUSD is charging for things that are explicitly barred by the statute.

For more information, please see: Web Link

Cal. Ed. Code, 49010 to 49013.


Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm

My student took AP classes in PAUSD and chose not to take the AP test. There was no requirement to take the test. Many colleges don't accept the tests for any type of credit (or severely limit the credit a student can receive).

If people want to take issue with the summer school fees for the enrichment programs (SAT prep, Bridge class etc) then it is likely PAUSD just won't offer these classes. There is no reason why they offer them except as a service to the students. The SAT class through PAUSD is a lot cheaper than Princeton Review etc. There is no law that says PAUSD has to offer these extra non credit classes. Like other districts, PAUSD will just offer credit recovery courses for students who did not pass. I did some checking and the districts I checked are ONLY offering courses for remediation.

it is interesting about Calculators. It is a great advantage to use a graphing calculator on the SAT and that is why our schools want the students to have them and teach them how to use them. If a student doesn't bring one to the SAT, no one provides them with one.


Posted by ever consider?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm

More likely, PAUSD will stop offering summer school because it is too expensive to fund in its entirety. And who does that help?


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I agree, we don't need to pile on.

I think the long-term result will either be the elimination of summer school altogether or it will just be privatized like everything else. For example, our kids attended St. Francis for summer school a few years ago. The catch was that we had to "apply" for certification and credit - which was easy to do. PAUSD could "lease" their facilities to a private school during the summer - then families would have to pay for *every* class, no matter the need.

No one has to pay for sports teams or band, etc. but a donation is requested. For those who cannot afford it, the sports boosters cover the gap. The Paly sports boosters are always out there raising funds through concessions, tree lot, golf tournament, etc. As far as I'm concerned, this is a non-issue.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm

@PVP wrote: "My student took AP classes in PAUSD and chose not to take the AP test. There was no requirement to take the test."

From the Gunn course catalog, regarding AP English Literature: "Accepting enrollment in this course indicates a student's commitment to taking the AP Examination in Literature and Composition in the spring." See: Web Link

The course description for BC Calc AP states that "Students who satisfactorily complete the course will take an Advanced Placement Examination in Mathematics."

Some of the other AP descriptions state that students are "encouraged" to take the examination.

Every student taking an AP at Gunn has to complete a contract. That contract requires that the student and parent agree that they will "follow through on the specific application procedures" and meet any "stated deadlines" which presumably refer to signing up for the College Board tests.

Ironically, according to the contract, any student who finds that the AP course is too difficult and wants to drop down to a non-AP course "might have to attend summer school to complete the course." Presumably, for a fee under PAUSD's illegal summer school tuition policy.

@everconsider. It is not up to you or to the school board to answer your question "who would that help?" That question has been answered by the state legislature, and by the Constitution of the State of California. We have a system of rule of law. What you imply is that when one finds the law inconvenient or not to one's liking one can simply ignore it. That does seem to be what the PAUSD board is doing in a number of areas (ADA, Rehabilitation Act, Title IV, Title IX, NCLB at Barron Park, and so forth).

Values are set by the People acting in their sovereign capacity through their elected representatives, not by school boards or rogue superintendents. If you do not like the law or the Constitutional provision, sponsor a ballot initiative to change it. If you do not think the "Public School Tuition and Fees Proposition" would garner a majority of voters please consider why. Then you will know the answer to your question "who would that help?"


Posted by ever consider?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

Curious,

No fees can be charged for "educational activities . . . that constitute an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education."

Classes offered in PAUSD's summer school which are an "integral fundamental" part of a student's education (reading and math recovery for example) ARE free. For other classes, PAUSD waives fees "for students on free or reduced lunch." Web Link

College SAT prep and application essay classes are not "integral" nor are they "fundamental" and so are not on the long list of what legislators have determined students in our state must learn. That those classes are advertised in a summer school catalog does not change that.

The source you cite defers to the Opinions of the Attorney General. While following the AG opinions may result in the district escaping the ire of folks like you, not following them does not mean that laws have been broken. Even Michelle Dauber'll tell you that "an official interpretation of a statute by the Attorney General is not controlling."

If the district follows your advice and makes these non-integral classes free for those who can afford to pay for them too, it is possible that those classes will be too expensive to run and so no college prep classes – perhaps the only ones that low income students have available to them for free - will be offered.

So, how does your overreaching and misleading interpretation of the law and PAUSD Summer School Catalog help the students whose rights you say you are championing?


Posted by PalyDad, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 7:48 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

I am upset at the tone of this thread.

What are people trying to do? Is this a picky, picky situation? Do we really have a problem here? Are we really having trouble with people not being able to afford to pay for the AP exams, or the summer school classes, or PE uniforms? It may be that the calculators are too expensive for all to afford, but do we have a problem here? Are there no available calculators to rent from the school something along the lines of musical instruments for 5th grade music?

I feel that the spirit of the law is not to cause these types of problems where they do not exist.

The logical conclusion to all these rules is the dumbing down of our school program. Is that what some are trying to do?

We don't have a problem. Please don't make one.


Posted by ever consider?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 8:46 am

Edmund Burke,

I meant to direct my post above to you too.

As I shared, PAUSD's summer school, which is FREE for most classes and fee-based for non-"educational activities" which are NOT "integral" or "fundamental" to an education like SAT prep, appears to be fine for reasons stated above.

You should consider amending your post: "Curious is correct about the information he/she is posting ...schools cannot charge for [what] Palo Alto charges for including summer school...whether elective or required"?


Posted by Plato, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

The law is clear. It is not legal to charge tuition for summer school. Any summer school. We may not like it but we don't live in the Free Republic of Palo Alto, so it is not up to us. The school board is a creature of the state government. The communication cited is a directive, not a piece of friendly advice.
It will be an interesting school board meeting tonight. This item is on the consent calendar. Will Dana Tom allow the board to adopt a policy without discussion that violates the law?


Posted by Curious, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

Hello "ever consider", I am happy that you are participating in this community discussion!
In answer to your questions about the law, please allow me to point you to the Education Code (Web Link). A "fee" is defined by the law includes "(1) A fee charged to a pupil as a condition for registering for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or an extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit (49010(b)(1)).
And "A pupil enrolled in a public school shall not be
required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity. (49011(a)).
And "School districts and schools shall not establish a two-tier educational system by requiring a minimal educational standard and also offering a second, higher educational standard that pupils may only obtain through payment of a fee or purchase of additional supplies that the school district or school does not provide." (49011(b)(3)).
Under "Fees Not Allowed" in the memo to Superintendents cited above is "A tuition fee or charge as a condition of enrollment in any class or course of instruction, including a fee for attendance in a summer or vacation school, a registration fee, a fee for a catalog of courses, a fee for an examination in a subject, a late registration or program change fee, a fee for the issuance of a diploma or certificate, or a charge for lodging."
And "No statute specifically authorizes tuition for summer school. Therefore, tuition or any such fee or charge relating to summer school is prohibited under California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), Section 350, which precludes charging fees for educational activities not specifically authorized by law."
Given that, I can't agree with your statement that my story has an "overreaching and misleading interpretation of the law." But as always I leave such judgments ultimately up to my readers, among whom I am happy to count you. Thank you!


Posted by ever consider?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

One more round because Plato doesn't seem to be following:

The law: "educational activities [are] to be provided free of charge."

So you first need to establish that the class in question is an "educational activity."

The law: "Educational activity" means an 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."

One would be hard pressed to convince anyone that SAT and college essay prep classes are an "integral fundamental" part of K-12 education in this or any state.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

Footnote to the part being cited by "ever consider": "The Hartzell court
suggested that fees for optional attendance at school or District sponsored activities that are purely recreational (rather than educational) in nature, such as a weekend dance or an athletic event, may be legal." The idea that SAT prep and college essay prep classes are not educational, are are like a school dance, is just silly.
But this doesn't really matter. What matters is what the California Department of Education thinks. I seriously doubt that anyone at PAUSD has bothered to ask them whether our summer school tuition is legal, despite the plain language of the law.


Posted by ever consider?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

People's opinions on this can differ I suppose, but most would not view summer SAT and college application essay prep classes as passing the crucial, initial test which for some reason all of you seem to gloss over: the class must be "an INTEGRAL FUNDAMENTAL part of elementary and secondary education" for the "no fee" rules to apply.

But if you want to take this to court just to check out if your strained interpretation is correct, know that you 1. not only will rack up district legal fees that could be used to provide more programs and services, you also 2. set in motion the district cancelling these classes so only those who can afford private college prep classes will get that help.

In your world view, our students will loose out either way but you'll prove your point (or you won't).


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

The first question is, "What is reality?". The next question is, "What should we do about it?". If the reality is that we're doing something illegal (which I think it very clearly is), then we have some options. I suppose we could keep doing it, and hope no one ever notices it. If that is an unappealing option (which I also think it is), then we need a Plan B. Incidentally, this process is what we have a school board and district staff for, but they don't seem to have done their job on this one.
This won't be a court case. Someone will complain to the Department of Education, they will tell us to stop charging tuition (and requiring students to buy calculators, take mandatory AP exams on their own dime, etc.), and then we will comply. Unless you think the district should sue the state somehow?
Don't shoot the messenger. Instead, ask why the messenger is a blogger on Palo Alto Online, rather than our paid district staff or our school board.


Posted by Some Kids Need It, a resident of University South
on May 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

We have a friend whose two daughters show horses at a very high level of proficiency. In the late fall and late spring they do miss some school days as a result. The older one is gifted, and has no problem with this....she does home work in between classes at the shows, and still maintains a 4.5 GPA.

The younger daughter is learning disabled, however, and while showing horses at a high level has given her a lot of confidence, she falls behind in school. As a result, for the past two years she has been required to attend summer school. Lucky for her, her parents are quite wealthy and paying for summer school is no problem. In their you get daughter's case, they see it as the price of missing school days and falling behind, and pay it happily.

However, other, less wealthy kids, especially those who live south of Oregon Expressway, chafe at the idea of paying for a public school education, especially when they are required to attend in order to graduate in four years! Most especially when their parents receive letters from the district that very strongly "suggest" a large donation for each student in the family, and send these letters each semester!

PAUSD should look at themselves when they wonder why more and more parents are taking their kids out of the schools here, and placing them on private schools: when "paying" for a public education anyway, why not pay a little more and get a really quality education, free of administrative " harassment", teacher harassment, and bullying!


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

@everconsider writes: You should consider amending your post: "Curious is correct about the information he/she is posting ...schools cannot charge for [what] Palo Alto charges for including summer school...whether elective or required"?

The statute itself states that there can be no charge of any kind for any course, whether elective or required, and whether it is for credit or not. It is very clear that fees cannot be charged. Fee is defined in the statute, in section 49010(b). Here is the precise language:

"A fee charged to a pupil as a condition for registering for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class oran extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit."

This language is in the statute itself. That is not a "picky, picky situation", as Resident suggests, and that is an odd way to regard the law. Following the law is not a choice and arguing with me about whether or not it is a good law or constitutional right is quite beside the point.

Moreover, the California Department of Education has issued guidance to districts, which are creatures of the state, that clarifies what is and is not barred by the law and that guidance states that any fee or charge for summer school is barred: "No statute specifically authorizes tuition for summer school. Therefore, tuition or any
such fee or charge relating to summer school is prohibited under California Code of
Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), Section 350, which precludes charging fees for
educational activities not specifically authorized by law."

Palo Alto charges for elementary and middle school summer school. Is "ever consider" contending that $475 for elementary programs that include "targeted instruction in math and/or literacy -- whether they need help catching up to their
grade level, maintaining their skills from the year, or enrichment" are not educational? I think not.

And as to middle school, PAUSD charges $235 per class for a panoply of summer courses all of which meet any reasonable definition of educational.

The brochures state that scholarships are available to those who present themselves as unable to pay. That is specifically also barred by statute.

Defiance of state law is not an option available to PAUSD. If PAUSD does not like this law then it can challenge it in court by seeking a declaratory judgment that its summer school offerings for elementary and middle school students, all of which charge tuition, and its high school electives, all of which charge tuition, are not "educational offerings." I am sure that PAUSD would lose and such a suit would be a giant waste of taxpayer money, but a taxpayer funded bonanza for Laurie Reynolds and/or Lou Lozano.

A reasonable question may be raised regarding what the district is thinking by continuing practices that clearly violate state law. That question was raised by the Mercury News months ago but has yet to be raised by our own local paper, school board, or district officials.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2013 at 11:22 am

Clearly, given the tenor of those who are upset - I'd hardly blame PAUSD to just throw their hands up and do away with summer school. I doubt PAUSD is required to offer summer school courses - so if your kid flunks a class, they'll either have to go to school for more than 4 years or pay a private school to re-take the course.

Nicely done.


Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

has anyone noticed that while the price of consumer electronics devices keep going down and down for the same thing, the 15+ year old TI 89 calculator still costs $100? TI and the Educational Testing Service have set up a monopoly whereby it is the only calculator allowed for SAT, ACT, etc. That means every college-bound student must have one. A few people have made noises about suing ETS and TI for monopoly, but it hasn't happened yet. Any Palo Alto lawyers want to take on this one? It's got to be worth big bucks to HP, Sony, and anyone else who wants to make a scientific calculator.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 11:39 am

@Crescent Park Dad. You seem to be missing the point. It's not "those who are upset" that are the issue. People who are upset can be easily ignored, and often that is the right thing to do. It is the difference between our current policy and practice and what the law requires.
Any ideas on that score? Or just want to take potshots from the sidelines?


Posted by the law is an a.., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

@Crescent Park Dad, Reality Check is correct, the only solution is to remove any fee requirements for courses to abide by state and federal law. If that means dropping summer school, PE programs, enrichment programs, etc., so be it. That is abiding by the law. It also carries over into elementary Coloma trips, any school event that requires any fee from any student, including musical instruments. Pens, paper, books, all are under this criteria and all need to be free to everyone. No scholarship requirements because they are free.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Summer school classes which are part of the PAUSD curriculum (aka given during the normal school year) are free. Period.

The school can ask for donations for any extracurricular event (like sports or a trip) but can not require a student to pay a donation in order to participate, nor can they offer a scholarship. The can however, fundraise to cover the costs of something and I expect, can cancel things they don't have enough money to pay for (which will result in the wealthier schools "fundraising" for things like Coloma and the less wealthy schools not being able to participate).

Schools can send a list of suggested school supplies, but can not require them or penalize a student for not having them. So they can suggest a certain calculator, but can't require it for class.

Much of this is semantics.


Posted by Plato, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

There is no exemption for courses in summer school not given during the school year. You can't just make stuff up even if you say "period" after it.


Posted by parade of horribles, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

@the law is...
"the only solution is to remove any fee requirements for courses to abide by state and federal law. If that means dropping summer school, PE programs, enrichment programs, etc., so be it. That is abiding by the law. It also carries over into elementary Coloma trips, any school event that requires any fee from any student, including musical instruments. Pens, paper, books, all are under this criteria and all need to be free to everyone. No scholarship requirements because they are free."

Let's take these one at a time:

1. summer school. Does not need to be dropped. Needs to be free. HS summer school is now limited to credit recovery along with college prep for a fee. Elementary and middle school could also be limited to those who need to keep up, i.e., those who really need extra help if it has to be scaled back. Maybe PIE dollars could be used for this, since it seems to be an appropriate use.

2. Coloma trips are specifically exempted and allowed to charge fees so long as no student is excluded due to inability to pay. See Cal. Ed Code 35335.

3. PE Programs. Providing uniforms free of charge or not requiring uniforms is not the same as discontinuing gym class.

4. Enrichment programs such as Barron Park's "college bound" are allowed. They just have to be free of charge. College Bound is free of charge, so that seems to suggest that enrichment programs can be offered for free. When Barbara Klausner was the GATE math teacher at Nixon there was no extra charge for that either so that must be possible to offer for free as well. Which fee-based enrichment programs are you referring to?

5. Musical Instruments. Must be provided free. Cal. Ed. Code 49010(b)(2).

6. Paper, pens, books, and school supplies including graphing calculators. Must be provided free. Cal Ed. Code 49010(b)(3).

Lower income parents should not have to go to school officials with hat in hand, begging because they can't afford things, and frankly many people simply do not sign up their kids for things because they don't want to undergo the indignity of asking for help. The result of that is that kids miss out. We need to understand that this situation can befall any family -- divorce, medical expenses, job loss and other problems afflict many members of our community including those who may not want others to know. Having to write a letter explaining why you can't afford this or that is a very humiliating experience and under the Cal Constitution not one we are permitted to inflict on our parents and students.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

@parade: Yes, exactly. Once you give up the idea that just ignoring the law is fine, and start to think about complying with it, it turns out to be possible. Maybe not perfect, but that is the actual job. We now have two very clear illustrations of this: the OCR findings, and now this.
It would be terrific if our district staff and school board would figure this stuff out. Are they just unaware of the law in this area too, or are they also in favor of deliberate defiance?


Posted by ???, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

This is all very well -- the law is the law -- but where is the money going to come from for calculators, art supplies, paper and pencils, science supplies, and the like. In many districts, including Palo Alto, teachers pay for stuff out of their own pockets, which is wrong. Also, teachers need to be paid for summer schools. California has to straighten out the way it finances schools so there is adequate budget at the local level for all the things that are supposed to be provided for "free."


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

We have to figure out, given our budget, what we want to provide in the way of education. We just can't tell parents that they have to provide required materials themselves (like calculators), or that there is a basic level of education that is available to everyone and a deluxe model (like summer school enrichment classes) that is available only to those who can afford it.
If you're looking for a place to get some money for these things, let me suggest to you the $150,000 PR officer that the school board voted to hire. That's a lot of calculators.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I don't disagree with the assessment that it is highly likely that PAUSD should not be charging for summer school. But I also expect that if the answer is always free to all, then the response will either be a very curtailed curriculum or just an all-out cancellation.

Our kids both went through PAUSD K-12. Very happy with the results. I guess (like everyone else) I'm getting a bit fed up with all of the screw ups --- but I also get tired of the lynch mob mentality.

Honestly, I do think the best answer for PAUSD is to save the expense and lease out the space.

As for calculators - the alternative is to "highly suggest" that students equip themselves with a calculator that performs the following functions X, Y & Z....they don't have to have a calculator, but then they need to realize that the "college level" course (i.e., AP Calc) may be more difficult for some students. .

BTW - HP has a graphing calculator. I think the issue is that some teachers don't want to deal with "Reverse Polish". Also - there's an HP12C app available for the iPhone. In fact the 50g is available for $9.99.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

@Crescent park dad, you also can't provide a course that only really works for students who can afford a fancy calculator, while not providing that calculator to all students. Saying that some students can use their graphing calculator, while others can use their fingers, toes, and protractor, is not compliant with the law. Remember, the whole point is equal educational opportunity regardless of income.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Now that we are talking about equity for all, do you mean like the fact that some elementary students get a foreign language immersion while others get none?

That has been the most inequitable system for a long time - particularly as the lucky students get chosen by a lottery.

Oh, and this year the living skills summer school class got filled almost straight away and they introduced a second class because of the demand. Now if there was only enough money to pay for one class (hypothetically) and they chose the students by way of a lottery, would that be equitable?

Likewise, Hoover and Ohlone kids have lotteries, is that equitable?

And what about all those kindergartners who cannot get into their own neighborhood school and have a reverse lottery (not happening now because of the age change and only 11 months rather than 12 months age range until we get down to September birthday cutoffs) but is it equitable that some kids get into schools in their own neighborhoods while others are overflowed across town?

And if you really want to talk about equity, why can't all the kids who want to play football get on the team? Or all kids who want to be class president?

No, life isn't fair. I can't see how we can make it so. But I wish my kids had been able to learn a foreign language in elementary school and were able to sail through the language AP class in high school.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Those are all things for you to work on. I agree with you that the language instruction resources should be distributed more equitably in the district. I don't know if there's any legal issues there - certainly not on the narrow fee question we have been talking about.
Of course, the fact that we can't eliminate all inequities isn't a reason not to comply with the law.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

@Resident. Many things are not fair, and I agree with you about language immersion and the rationing of oversubscribed programs offering better social-emotional programming.

This thread is not about the general unfairness of life. It is not about the many ways that PAUSD makes the decisions that it is allowed to make as a matter of discretion and with which you or I may agree. Those elected to the board can operate within their sphere of discretion, and can even retain a superintendent who failed to fully inform them about the fact that the district under his leadership has failed to comply with federal civil rights law and has gotten itself into a real jam with the federal government. That is up to the board.

What is not up to the board and leadership is whether or not to follow the law. Charging for summer school, requiring $100 calculators, requiring $89 AP examinations, requiring the purchase of gym uniforms -- these things are not allowed by law. Following the UCP for all written complaints of discrimination even when you would prefer to have them sorted by the principal -- that also is not allowed by law. There is no purpose in pointless debate over whether or not as a matter of policy it would be better had the people of California not ratified their Constitution, or had the Supreme Court not interpreted "free" to mean "free" or had the Assembly not conceded the issue to the ACLU and enacted legislation to this effect. There is no purpose in pointless debate over whether or not discriminatory harassment should be treated differently than ordinary bullying. There are laws.

We are a nation of laws. We observe the rule of law. PAUSD is not a sovereign entity. It is a creature of the state and as such it is subject to state law and state mandates. It accepts federal funds and as such it is subject to federal law and regulations. That is all that there is to say.

This is not about fairness. It is about the rule of law.


Posted by Curious fan, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

THANK YOU "Curious" for all of the great reporting that you are doing! Please keep it up!
Weekly, is there any way to link to Curious's stories from the main page? I am learning a lot from reading them and I am sure there are many others like me. You have some "bloggers" on the front page. Could Curious be one of those? I don't want to miss something important because of not looking in this section.


Posted by Oh well - thanks neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Whoever, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by JTK, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2013 at 7:44 am

Obeying the law is a well-known method of "destroying" things. I think that's what ultimately destroyed the Roman Empire, the Mayan and Inca civilizations, and Star Trek, The Original Series.


Posted by Curious too, a resident of Professorville
on May 29, 2013 at 8:43 am

Anybody know what the school board did yesterday? Did they pass the policy?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2013 at 8:51 am

The Board appears to have based its "logo-free" exception on gym uniforms on an outdated CDE Fiscal Management Advisory from 1997 (dated October 30, 1997). In this advisory, which predated the new statute, AB1575, as well as the new Fiscal Management Advisory 12-02 (dated April 24, 2013). Although the 1997 FMA contained language that allowed districts to require that students purchase specified gym clothes, that language is entirely absent from the new FMA from 2013.

Therefore, CDE has issued a new guidance document for districts that interprets AB1575 as not allowing districts to require students to purchase any specific clothing for gym class, regardless of logos or any other factor. Under the new guidance document, which supersedes the older document, requiring students to purchase uniforms is specifically disallowed by statute and the CDE no longer interprets the law as permitting it, with or without logos.

Our own counsel, Lozano Smith, has noted the difference between the 1997 and 2012 guidance documents on its own website, saying that "the CDE's current guidance appears to differ in certain regards with guidance it issued on student fees in 1997." The Lozano website specifically noted the fact that the CDE's 1997 guidance permitted schools to require students to purchase their own P.E. uniforms under certain conditions, but the new 2013 guidance did not include that language. Lozano Smith concludes with a warning to districts about requiring gym uniforms: "While the CDE's current student fees guidance is not binding, it is likely to inform the CDE's adjudication of pupil fee complaint appeals under the UCP process." See: Web Link

PAUSD's policy (and the CSBA template) clearly violate the law. Such a violation may appear to be minor -- after all, requiring the purchase of green shorts and a green t-shirt just doesn't seem as bad as requiring the purchase of a $100 calculator or paying $470 for summer school.

It is this entire set of practices and policies that must be reviewed -- indeed, that should have been reviewed much sooner. The new law was passed last summer and took effect on January 1, 2013. Yet PAUSD is right now registering students for summer school and charging tuition for doing so. PAUSD this year required graphing calculators. And when it rewrote the policy, it retained the gym uniform language from 1997 even though it was specifically excluded from the 2013 guidance document, a fact noted by our own lawyers on their website.

There is an issue here in which the law is treated as optional when it conflicts with longstanding local practices. This is not an unusual problem in socio-legal terms, though it more typically applies in cases in which an occupying power or new regime attempts to shift local mores through law. PAUSD is part of the State of California and should willingly embrace and follow state and federal law.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

My impression is that PAUSD seems to have dropped the ball (pun intended) instead of refusing to comply with state law.

We can debate competency all we want, but given Mr. Burke's latest post I'd lean towards someone missing the details vs. purposeful disobedience.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

So what is the logical consequences of this.

I agree that we want to obey the law, but where does that lead us?

Do we abandon PE or at least anything that requires sweat because we can't insist on PE clothes or at least insist that kids change their clothes, or have sneakers, or have swimwear, or whatever?

Do we abandon higher math classes because we can't insist on the right materials whether they be calculators or binder paper?

Do we stop having duplicate sets of text books at home so that we can pay for in class supplies such as paper and pencils which have to be paid for and then of course the students have to carry heavy textbooks to school every day?

Do we stop having remedial classes for students in summer because although these are free we can't have babysitting or cooking classes to fund them?

And why aren't we teaching SAT prep as part of our curriculum? Do we not expect our students to go to college or do well in the SAT. They all have to do the PSAT, so do we not prepare them for that in class? And why can't our English classes teach how to write an essay? Are they too busy reading pc literature that they can't write an essay?

Yes obeying the law is right. But dumbing down our program is not right.

And one other point, if stuff is given away free it is abused. If a family buys materials, they tend to look after it better. If a PE uniform is given free to each student, then they will continue to be lost or neglected. How many PE uniforms will a student go through in their high school career as opposed to the one they get that they pay for at present?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm

@Resident:

Lost or damaged property is an item specifically permitted by law to be charged. If a student is issued a free gym uniform for their use and they lose or damage it, then they can be charged for it. See Cal. Ed. Code 19911 & 48904.

Again, while the finer policy points, efficiencies, and incentives that the law may or may not produce may be of interest, they are of no moment as the California Supreme Court, the California Constitution, and this legislation have already been passed. Whether or not you like the results is irrelevant.

But none of the outcomes you posit are required. PAUSD currently has a budget surplus -- so much so that the board authorized the expenditure of $150,000 annually for a Public Relations officer. That sum would fund:

7,500 gym uniforms
1500 graphing calculators
1685 AP Test fees to the College Board
319 Summer School tuitions
17,000,000 paper clips
150,000 spiral notebooks
13,000,000 3x5 cards
1,400,000 pens
1,875,000 no. 2 pencils

If PAUSD has enough cash to burn on a PR officer then it surely has sufficient surplus from which to meet the state mandate to provide a free public education. Donations can also be sought to help meet the mandate. For example, Esther Wojcicki recently donated 40 Chromebooks along with free internet access. Private fundraising and donated items such as this are a promising avenue to pursue. PIE last year donated $5million to PAUSD, which funds would likely be sufficient to provide for nearly the entire shortfall caused by obeying the law.

Please shed no tears for a rich district like PAUSD with its private education foundation and wealthy clientele. Instead, think of the many districts in the state which actually will have great difficulty supplying graphing calculators, summer school, and the like. Then ask yourself why PAUSD of all places, with its vastly superior resources, is having such difficulty following the law despite having 2 law firms under contract.





Posted by Curiouser, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm

The video is up. Heidi pulled it from consent raising hopes only to dash them by accomplishing nothing. She apparently thought she had worked out some language on gym uniforms with Cathy Mak ahead of time but it did not make it into the AR. That language would still, unfortunately, not have comied with CDE's current guidance on this. No one mentioned summer school or calculators. Then they adopted it. Incidentally, if CDE finds that the district illegally charged for summer school the remedy is that the district has to send refund checks to every parent in the district who paid. That will be much less efficient than just following the law in the first place but not a single board member seemed perturbed about it. Nor did the Weekly see fit to cover our illegal practices.


Posted by I considered, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

"Ever considered' seems to think that the only way to get clarity on the issue is if someone took the issue to court. There is a much simpler way to assure that we are following the law, simply present our facts to the DOE. My understanding is that they willingly give answers to these kinds of questions. Their interest is to just get districts to follow the requirements of the law. Am I missing something or is our district trying to be too clever by half?


Posted by wow , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Let me get this straight. If anyone files a complaint about summer school it's open and shut illegal and the CDE will make PAUSD refund all the summer school tuition to every parent? That's half a million dollars last year alone. Holy cow! Is this more bad leadership? Dr. Skelly exposed PAUSD to all of this refund liability. What happens when the inevitable complaints are filed do we blame the parents for the mess? For goodness sake board wake up!


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on May 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm

@Wow - Your question received a pretty fast response. As you most likely know - yes - fees are being refunded.
@Curious - Thank you again.


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