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Education: Parents might have to pay for after-school event transportation

Posted: February 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Members of the Saugus High swim team exit a bus to get to practice at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center on Wednesday. The cost of busing district students to after-hour events could fall onto parents this fall.


Parents of football players, saxophonists and swimmers — and any other students participating in school-related events after hours — might have to pay their own way to their respective events, a school official said Wednesday.

If any parent feels the pending bus fees are unfair, however, a recent settlement agreement between education advocates and the state empowers them with a way to fight back.

As early as this fall, the cost of busing district students to school-related functions out of town could fall on the shoulders of the parents, said Gregory Lee, director of human resources and equity services for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The district is considering a proposal to end district-funded transportation for extra-curricular activities such as trips to football games and high school band competitions.

The plan is being debated at monthly parent meetings.

“In looking at this plan. We already know every team and what they paid in transportation last year,” Lee explained. “Based on that, we know how much they will need to budget this year.”

Each football coach, for example, will have to decide which trips are essential and which are not, he added.

“In the end, each program and each team will have to come up with what the cost will be for transportation and ask their (students’) parents for that money.”

“We’re going to transfer the responsibility of paying for transportation from the district to the individual programs,” Lee said.

What parents, school administrators and civil right advocates don’t want is to have any student sidelined because he or she could not afford the cost of attending an after-school event.

If the district plan goes through and parents think footing the bill for after-school busing is unfair, they can fight the extra fee — thanks to a lawsuit settlement agreement reached late last year with the state.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it had reached a settlement with the state of California calling for a comprehensive monitoring and enforcement system that would make sure school districts were not charging students unlawful fees just to take part in school activities.

“A lot of these fees force the parents into a really difficult position of having to bite the bullet and pay or choose to have their student not participate in the program,” said Brooks Allen, ACLU director of educational advocacy.

The settlement still needs court approval but, under its proposed language, if state auditors find any school district charging such illegal fees, that district would be required to fully reimburse parents of suffer a financial penalty.

As well, parents would be able immediately to challenge illegal fees by simply filling out a one-page complaint form which, according to the settlement, demands a local resolution to the protest within 30 working days.

Lee said the latest settlement agreement would enable parents to act on any fee they believe is unfair.

“It’s another check and balance, which makes the process all the better,” he said.


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