Playing dumb on why students are charged illegal fees

Nov. 1, 2012

Chris Reed: I think some of the best writing about California’s public schools appears on education-specific blogs and websites, not in newspapers. I’ve read EdSource regularly for a long time. But these sites also serve up lots of copy from people in the education establishment who duck all hard truths about public schools and pretend all problems stem from a lack of money. A new piece by the president of the San Carlos School District is a classic example. Why have we seen state legislation trying to force schools to stop charging kids for basic education materials? Seth Rosenblatt offers the easy answer:

“[T]his problem is in large part a direct result of the massive underfunding of our public schools in this state. School districts have always been forced to be ‘creative’ in how they deliver programs with less money, and in many cases that has involved charging students and families.”

Sorry, but this problem is the result of financial practices demanded and enforced by teacher unions that mandate automatic annual pay hikes for most employees based on years on the job. It is a symptom of the systematic hollowing out of school operating budgets to ensure that almost all funds go to employee compensation.

And it’s not even the most egregious example. That would be how 30-year bonds are being used to pay for painting and other routine maintenance and for laptops and iPads.

This problem is also the result of a mindset that holds state laws can be ignored, because if we’re caught, we can just say it’s all about the kids. But it’s not all about the kids. It’s about propping up an adult jobs program with little regard to how students are affected.

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