All parents who paid summer school tuition to PAUSD for 2013 will automatically receive full refunds, according to a statement by superintendent Kevin Skelly and confirmed by a source close to the district. The move reverses an earlier decision to require that parents explicitly request a refund from the district. Under the earlier decision, unless parents contacted the district to receive a refund, the district would have treated their tuition charges as donations to PAUSD. The summer school fees are illegal under state law.
According to district sources, PAUSD officials also received yesterday a complaint about the summer school fees paid in 2012, along with a demand that those payments also be returned to parents. 2012 summer school tuition amounted to approximately $368,000.
The State Board of Education is scheduled to adopt at its July meeting regulations setting a one-year deadline for complaints of illegal pupil fees (see Web Link, at p. 6).
The unannounced change in district policy on the 2013 refunds follows a June 6 post to Palo Alto Online by Curious, a Palo Alto resident who posts occasional news stories to the online site (see Web Link). Curious' post was entitled "Palo Alto's plan to 'retain' illegal summer school tuition violates state law", and cited the statutory requirement that all illegal fees be returned by school districts.
The reversal on reimbursements follows the district's earlier decision to offer refunds of summer school tuition for 2013. District officials attributed that change to "recent legislation and court decisions," in particular an April 24 memo from the California Department of Education to district superintendents that mentioned a ban on fees for summer school (see Web Link). The decision followed by three days a post by Curious pointing out that summer school tuition is illegal.
However, the language in the April 24 memo cited by the district simply repeated similar statements in advisories to districts dating back to 1997, including earlier memos in 2011 and 2013 (the 2011 memo is at Web Link).
In fact, these statements are repeated in a PAUSD document dated 2011 on the district website. The document, entitled "Student Fees Guidelines," points out that "Students cannot be assessed a fee to enroll in a class, whether it be during the normal school year or during the summer" (see Web Link).