An effort to bar California’s public schools from charging fees for students to participate in school sports and other activities ended with a veto last week from the governor, who said the bill went “too far.”
The state constitution still bans schools from charging students mandatory fees to play sports or join clubs, but lawsuits have been the primary way to resolve any complaints regarding mandatory fees.
The legislation, which state lawmakers approved by wide margins, would have entitled the state superintendent of public instruction to punish schools that charged mandatory fees by withholding 1 percent of all funding for administrative costs.
It was based on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that argued that pay-to-play school activities had become increasingly common—in violation of the state constitution. The ACLU’s case was reported to be settled last December, but was never finalized.
In 1984, the state Supreme Court cited the state constitution in ruling that “educational opportunities must be provided to all students without regard to their families’ ability or willingness to pay fees or request special waivers.”
Gov. Jerry Brown said he agreed that districts should be held accountable if they don’t live up to the promise to provide all students with a free public education. “But this bill takes the wrong approach to getting there,” he said.
The bill would have required every school in the state to use uniform complaint processes to help resolve any issues with fees and to post notices about the resolution process in every classroom.
Gov. Brown, a Democrat, cited that provision in his statement explaining why he vetoed the bill, saying it would mandate “that all 1,042 school districts and over 1,200 charter schools follow specific complaint, hearing, and audit procedures, even where there have been no complaints, let alone evidence of any violation.”
The state Senate had passed the bill 23-15, and the Assembly approved it 51-24.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as Calif. Gov. Vetoes Bill Banning Pay-to-Play