Student Well-Being

Indiana Court Strikes Down Mandatory Fees

By Laura Greifner — April 11, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Indiana Supreme Court has struck down a school district’s $20 school activity fee as a violation of the state constitution because, the court said, it is equivalent to a tuition charge.

The 22,100-student Evansville-Vanderburgh school district imposed the fee on all K-12 students in the 2002-03 school year. The money was used to pay for nurses, school counselors, alternative education, and activities such as music, athletics, and drama, among other purposes. According to court papers, the fee was part of an attempt to balance the district’s budget, which had a $2.3 million deficit in 2002.

Some parents of students in the district, including some whose children qualify for federally subsidized school lunches, filed the suit in 2002.

The Indiana Constitution guarantees a public education “wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”

“The mandatory fee [the district] imposed generally on all students, whether the student avails himself of a service or participates in a program of activity or not, becomes a charge for attending a public school and obtaining a public education,” Justice Robert D. Rucker wrote for the majority in the 4-1 decision on March 30.

Fran Quigley, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represented the plaintiffs, said that even though the fee was small, “for some of our clients, it was a financial hardship.”

“Indiana’s constitution clearly states that tuition should be without charge, and it seemed clear to us and our clients that the type of fees that were being charged in Evansville fell into that category of tuition,” Mr Quigley said.

The state high court also held that for extracurricular activities, not considered part of a publicly funded education, “a reasonable fee may be assessed, but only against those students who participate in or take advantage of them.”

Tom Hutton, a staff lawyer with the National School Boards Association, in Alexandria, Va., said that many districts charge fees for athletics or other extracurricular activities, but that the charge depends upon whether a student wishes to participate.

“The problem here [in the Indiana case] is everybody pays whether they participate or not,” he said.

Drivers’ Education

The decision left some unanswered questions for Indiana school districts.

“I think we’re more confused now about what we can charge for than before [this case] went to trial,” said Julie M. Slavens, a staff lawyer with the Indiana School Boards Association. She said that because the ruling says school districts cannot charge for services related to the state-mandated curriculum, districts are faced with some funding dilemmas.

“We’re required to offer drivers’ ed,” Ms. Slavens said. “It’s mandated by the state board of education, so it should be provided for. Does that mean we can’t charge a reasonable fee for gas, oil, wear and tear on the cars now?”

Neither Mr. Hutton nor Ms. Slavens knew of any other districts across the country that had been imposing a mandatory activity fee on all students.

A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Indiana Court Strikes Down Mandatory Fees

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being School Cellphone Bans Gain Steam as Los Angeles Unified Signs On
The Los Angeles Unified School District board of education has voted to ban students from using smartphones in its schools.
4 min read
Anthony Bruno, a student at Washington Junior High School, uses the unlocking mechanism as he leaves classes for the day to open the bag that his cell phone was sealed in during the school day on Oct. 27, 2022, in Washington, Pa. Citing mental health, behavior and engagement as the impetus, many educators are updating cellphone policies, with a number turning to magnetically sealing pouches.
Anthony Bruno, a student at Washington Junior High School, uses the unlocking mechanism as he leaves classes for the day to open the bag that his cell phone was sealed in during the school day on Oct. 27, 2022, in Washington, Pa. In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District has banned students from using cellphones during the school day.
Keith Srakocic/AP
Student Well-Being Opinion Youth Sports Are About More than Just Winning
A good athletics program introduces students to life lessons, and a good coach understands his or her impact.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being What the Research Says How Teacher Stress Management Is Crucial for Handling Student Mental Health
A Chicago program helps teachers learn how to manage their own stress in classes with more easily triggered students.
4 min read
Notes from students expressing support and sharing coping strategies paper a wall, as members of the Miami Arts Studio mental health club raise awareness on World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, 2023, at Miami Arts Studio, a public 6th-12th grade magnet school, in Miami.
Notes from students express support and share coping strategies at Miami Arts Studio, a public magnet school for grades 6-12, on Oct. 10, 2023. Studies find teachers need training to navigate their own stress while managing classes with high-need students.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Student Well-Being By Some Measures, Students' Well-Being Has Been Stable for a Decade, Study Shows
A Stanford report examined high school students’ well-being, sense of belonging, and engagement over more than a decade.
5 min read
Tired schoolboy fell asleep on a class at elementary school.
iStock/Getty