When thousands of seniors in the Elk Grove area receive their high school diplomas in the coming weeks, some will wear caps and gowns free of charge.I can't understand the requirement for having the school district pay for AP exams unless they're requiring students to take them as part of being in an AP class. In recent years I've won the argument at my school and our AP Calculus teachers have class sets of TI-Inspire calculators for students, they no longer require students to purchase calculators for the class.
Parents have long shelled out money for caps and gowns, along with yearbooks and grad-night tickets, to help celebrate the end of high school. But for the first time, the state has called on school districts to provide graduation attire at no cost to students or their families if required during the diploma ceremony.
The guidance stems from a new California law, which took effect last year and strengthened a prohibition on charging fees for integral parts of public education.
In the last 12 months, activists and parents across California have filed scores of state appeals challenging districts that require families to pay for such items as Advanced Placement exams, classroom supplies, workbooks and uniforms. Supporters say the new law ensures that low-income students have access to the same essential campus activities as their peers.
Knowledgeable parents are testing the law’s boundaries. In the San Juan Unified School District, several people challenged schools for posting supply lists last summer, taking aim at the backpack and binder shopping trips that have long been a back-to-school hallmark.
In August 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union released its “Pay to Learn” report documenting dozens of cases in which California school districts violated the state constitution by requiring students to pay fees for tests, workbooks, science labs, physical education uniforms, lab fees, art supplies and more.This is a situation wherein I completely support the ACLU and believe they are on the right side of the issue.
A fellow teacher told me today that he was surprised that I would take this position, that I wouldn't expect parents to be responsible for their own children and their supplies. Here's my rationale: in public education, I don't want a two-tiered system with one for the haves and one for the have-nots. We have determined that universal public education is a public good and everyone is entitled to the same opportunities within the public education system. If the rich want to pay more for their own kids, that's entirely fine--but they do it outside of public education, either through extracurricular community programs or through private school. Within our public education system I cannot tolerate the idea that some students might not be able to take certain classes because they cannot afford the fees--such an idea is anathema to me. This is why I've fought illegal fees for so long, and this is why I celebrate whenever I hear about another blow struck in favor of all our students.
Besides, the state constitution says that the state is to pay for education. We in the schools need to follow the law.